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News 27 Jan 17

Albanians Await Access to Communist-Era Police Files

State institutions and individuals have started applying for access to information kept confidential in secret police files for more than 25 years after the Albanian Communist regime fell.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
The director of the Authority for Information on Communist Former Police Secret Files, Gentiana Mara Sula. Photo: LSA

The Authority for Information on Former Communist Police Secret Files, which was established at the beginning of January, has started to receive the first requests from Albanian institutions looking to verify the pasts of people seeking promotion to senior positions or receiving medals from the state.

"Up to now, we have received the first four requests. One is a name that has applied for a senior official position, while we were also asked to check on two other names who are expected to be decorated," the director of the Authority, Gentiana Mara Sula, told BIRN.

The fourth request came from the family of Musine Kokalari, a distinguished intellectual and activist who was persecuted by Enver Hoxha’s Communist regime.

The Albanian parliament passed a law in May 2015 on opening up the Communist-era secret police files, allowing people who were persecuted under the former system and their relatives to see their files and hopefully find out the names of the people who spied on them.

The Authority was also given the power to do check-ups on political party officials and holders of public office to see if they were police collaborators.

However, the law doesn't include the lustration and let institutions to decide themselves whether they would promote or decorate person who are might have been recruited by secret communist police.

Sula told BIRN that measures will be taken to proceed as soon as possible with the requests, although the Authority is still working in a temporary office as its own is still under construction.

The authority has not yet started to collect the secret files in its own archive and is in the process of getting authorisations to retrieve them from a series of institutions which have stored them up until now.

"We are in the process of taking authorisations from the institutions who have stored folders and initially we are going to access the first ones there, also helped by the institutions' staff," Sula said.

She said that later on, when the authority has its own building and gets more funding, it will start creating a digital archive of the former secret police files.

"We have just taken a budget of around $400,000, but we hope and expect for more, since a lot of work has to be done. It will be a long process and it will take years to be fully completed," she said.

Sula also said that she was in the process of recruiting the 60 employees that the Authority will have.

Although public expectations are high over the opening up of the secret files, some of them are likely to have vanished as more than 25 years have passed since the fall of communism in Albania.

Sula promised that the Authority will inform the public about every case in which institutions which were in possession of the files have taken the decision to get rid of them.

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