Surveillance scandal triggers a “war” between Prosecution and Government, Italian authorities involved too

Surveillance scandal triggers a “war” between Prosecution and Government, Italian authorities involved too

Tirana, 7 June 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

In Albania, Prosecution of Tirana demanded from the court to suspend from duty the Police Commissioner, Haki Çako. The request followed a probe based on suspicions for the existence of a surveillance device managed against the law by State Police. This device was given to the Albanian Police by the Italian government. The device manages to eavesdrop mobile phones and even obtain the IMEI code, from which the information of the phone user can be secured. The device has disappeared and can no longer be found, although seizure was requested.

Court of Tirana granted the request and decided to suspend from duty Police Commissioner Haki Çako on the charge of abuse with duty.

Also, upon the request of the Prosecution of Tirana, the court decided to place under house arrest and equipped with an electronic chip Artio Duka, head of Operational Forces (OF) and Entiol Xhelilaj, specialist at OF, both suspected of abusing in the line of duty and of committing actions which obstruct the truth.

As part of these inquiries, Prosecution of Tirana suspects that these people have allowed, through their actions or lack thereof, unlawful surveillance activities.

An official source from the General Prosecution Office told IBNA that “Prosecution of Tirana continues its inquiries to prove if there are other senior state officials involved in these unlawful suspected activities”.

The inquiry started after it was proven that State Police possessed an “IMSI Catcher” detector. This device has entered the territory of Albania without the necessary authorization and can carry out telephone interceptions.

The inquiry held so far reveals that Police Commissioner Çako has not taken the necessary legal measures to secure the entry, handling and use of IMSI Catcher, which has been brought to Albania by Italian authorities for purposes of training, as the suspects declare.

ibna haki cako

“This device has entered the Albanian territory without undergoing to temporary customs regime and what’s more, without taking the necessary authorization by the General Attorney’s office, as the only authority which issues a permit for the use of such devices”.

Based on the suspects’ statements, among others, this device is capable of identifying IMEI numbers on telephone devices, a procedure which is subject to legislation regarding interception.

The probe reveals that different mobile phone devices could have been under unlawful surveillance of IMSI Catcher.

The suspect, Çako, has constantly denied the fact that this device could have been used for unlawful surveillance. But information regarding the investigation has led to Prosecution of Tirana to suspect that he has committed abuses in the line of duty.

Çako has declared that the device has been handled during the whole time by Italian experts. But, in at least two occasions, the vehicle where the device was, was moved by the specialist of Operational Forces, Ention Xhelilaj.

Prosecution has ordered for the device to be seized. Judicial officers from the prosecution of Tirana went to the State Police premises to seize it, but the device had disappeared 10 minutes earlier.

Although the order had to be executed, the device cannot be found and the government didn’t issue any explanation as to its location, thus marking an unprecedented case.

As far as the suspension of the Police Commissioner is concerned and the arrest of two of its heads, Prime Minister Edi Rama issued a reaction. He attacked  the Prosecution, thus marking another attack that the government launches against independent justice institutions, after the three year attack against courts.

“What happened is unjustifiable and for Albania, this is another bell which signals that Reform in Justice is a national emergency”, Mr. Rama said.

ibna ramaIn his declaration, Mr. Rama also offered a public apology to the Italian government.

“Our partners have the right to feel hurt by their indirect involvement in an absurd investigation and what’s worse, by the extreme action that the prosecution has undertaken today”, Mr. Rama said.

Rama said that the prosecution’s actions “have damaged an excellent cooperation”.

In his declaration, Mr. Rama gave no details as to where the device, which the prosecution is looking for, disappeared.

In contrast to Mr. Rama, Italian ambassador, Alerto Cutillo believes that the investigation has no connection whatsoever with the Italian side. “As far as the surveillance case is concerned, this is an investigation that concerns Albanian police and doesn’t concern Italian authorities”.

ibna cutillo

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The so called surveillance scandal is one of the most debated ones at the moment in Albania. The opposition was the first one to denounce it, but initially, the government denied it. Then it admitted the existence, but not that it was used for surveillance. Later, Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri admitted that the device was capable of receiving mobile phones’ IMEI codes. According to experts, if an IMEI code is obtained, then all the information regarding a mobile phone number is analyzed, including communications carried out by the phone user.

The fact that the device has disappeared and the government didn’t obey the order to deliver it to the Prosecution, is seen by some as a serious event which comes five years after the government of the right wing PM, Sali Berisha, hindered the order issued by prosecution and court for the arrest of Republican Guard soldiers who were suspected for the killing of protesters in the demonstration called by the socialist leader on January 21, 2011. On that day, following violence used by several protesters against police and the surrounding of the government building and the fact that the Republican Guard opened fire, four unarmed protesters remained killed and tens of riot police officers and civilians remained wounded. /balkaneu.com/