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Balkan Insight has learned that key evidence shot by security cameras in the Prime Minister’s office during the January 21 riots was destroyed in the aftermath of the protest.
|Police clash with protestors during the January 21 riots | Photo by Fonet|
Sources close to the investigation have told Balkan Insight that forensic tests carried out by the FBI on the server, which collected the images from the security cameras on the PM’s office, show that its contents were copied and wiped clean after the protest.
The images are believed to a have captured the members of the Republican Guard who had shot in the direction of the unarmed protestors during the riots.
The protest of January 21 turned into a riot when several hundred opposition marchers attacked the police barricade set up to protect the Prime Minister’s office, using sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails.
Police responded with tear gas, water cannons and later with live ammunition fire, leaving four dead and dozens wounded.
Prosecutors had sought access to the server immediately after the riot. The staff of Prime Minister Sali Berisha refused. At first the government claimed the server did not exist. Later it maintained that the images were wiped automatically every 24 hours.
Prosecutors are currently investigating the murders, the organizers of the protest and the violent demonstrators that attacked the police, as well as government officials that are suspected of destroying evidence of the deaths.
Immediately after the protests on January 21, General Prosecutor Ina Rama launched a probe into the deaths of the protesters and sought to collect evidence, while ordering the detention of the head of the Republican Guard.
Police for more than two weeks rejected her order to arrest the head of the Republican Guard on murder charges after Prime Minister Berisha declared him and five other officers “untouchable”.
The government refused the prosecutor’s order while accusing her of being part of an attempted coup d’état organised in conjunction with the President, the leader of the opposition, the head of the secret service and others.
Despite the government's accusations, Tirana’s District Court later declared the arrest warrants legal.
Currently only one republican guardsman remains in prison accused of the murder of the protestors, while the others are under investigation but have been released on bail.
Ina Rama’s impressive showing before a commission, which is seeking to prove that the January 21 unrest was an attempted coup, has undermined the probe’s credibility.
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