On Sunday, 34 citizens detained by Albanian police for protesting corruption and high prices were released with ‘obligation to appear’, despite their claims the detentions were violent and politically motivated.
Lawyers representing those detained said the arrests were nothing more than an attempt to intimidate them and that the protestors had not done anything wrong.
“We call the arrests illegal because they were made by using violence against people who have been protesting peacefully on the sidewalk. We have no data on the violence exercised by protesters against public institutions, even against law enforcement. On the other hand, we are all witnesses that most of the arrests were made by civilians using violence against protesters,” the lawyer of some of the detainees, Adriana Kalaja, told the media.
When asked for comment by BIRN the police refused to answer.
Additionally, one of those arrested and held in a cell was found to have a disability. Lawyer Florenc Tafo told BIRN that his client was arrested on the boulevard while just standing there peacefully.
He continued that it was obvious the client has difficulties with articulating and he cannot speak. The man was detained for four days without water or food, according to his lawyer. Additionally, he said they notified the police of his condition and presented them with his disability card which was not accepted by the police.
“He is certified based on the card issued by the Ministry of Health. I went as a legal representative, we took the card that he is really sick, but the police did not accept it.”
The police denied knowing that the individual had a disability.
“The services of the Police Commissariat No. 1, have carried out the first procedural actions for persons who have obstructed the circulation of vehicles, disturbed public order and tranquility and organised illegal gatherings and manifestations and none of the proceedings or detainees did not present documents that they are disabled,” said a police spokesperson.
The police used both uniformed and un-uniformed officers to arrest citizens that took part in the protest. Some of those in uniform did not have identification numbers or badges on their uniforms.
The Ombudsman has condemned the behavior of police as “disturbing” and called on authorities not to obstruct peaceful protests.
Albanian police have consistently been condemned for using violence against protestors, using arrest as a political tool, preventing democratic protests or gatherings, and even assaulting journalists.