From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Prosecution Confirms Criminal Investigation into Officials Over National Theatre Demolition

Albania’s Special Prosecution Office against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) has confirmed it is investigating claims of abuse of office, brought by the opposition Democratic Party, regarding the demolition of the National Theater.

In a letter, SPAK confirmed that investigations are ongoing, but they cannot comment on what stage they are at due to the secrecy of the work.

“This criminal proceeding is at the stage of preliminary investigations and the prosecution is conducting a full and comprehensive investigation….You will be informed of their progress at the end of the preliminary investigations,” the letter reads.

Two complaints regarding the demolition of the National Theater were made in 2020.

The first, by the PD, was lodged against Prime Minister Edi Rama, Mayor of Tirana Erion Veiaj, ex-Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj, and Chief of Police Ardi Veliu. The complaint included allegations of abuse of office, corruption, and destruction of property.

The Alliance for the Protection of the National Theatre also filed six cases in SPAK that were then combined into one.

The individuals named in the complaint by the Alliance are the same individuals included in the PD’s complaint. The Alliance alleges attempted murder amongst the complaints, due to the fact the demolition of the Theater started while people were still inside.

Last week, the land on which the Theater once stood was transferred back to the Municipality of Tirana.

The decision comes less than a month after the Constitutional Court repealed the 2020 decision that transferred ownership of the land and the theater building to the Municipality of Tirana. The Constitutional Court deemed that the original transfer was unconstitutional given that the National Theater is part of Albania’s historical and cultural inheritance and could not be managed by the Municipality, thus restoring ownership to the Ministry of Culture.

The latest decision then transfers the land back from the Ministry of Culture to the Municipality, so the project can continue as planned.

Speaking to BalkanWeb from Tokyo, the mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj said that this new decision does not contradict the Constitutional Court’s ruling, since the actual building—whose cultural significance the Constitutional Court based its decision on—no longer exists.