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The Albanian Treason Trial, March-April 1945.



The Albanian Treason Trial,
March-April 1945.

Webdesign J. Groß

The Albanian Treason Trial, March-April 1945.

1945
The Albanian Treason Trial

Albania was invaded by Fascist Italy in April 1939 and absorbed into Mussolini’s new ‘Roman Empire.’ In September 1943, Italy capitulated, and German forces entered Albania quickly to prevent an Allied advance in the Balkans. The Germans set up an autonomous Albanian government and did not interfere much in internal Albanian affairs. During this period, some Albanians collaborated with the fascist regimes, others, although opposed to the Germans, accepted positions in the autonomous government, and others still joined the Resistance movement. The latter was in fact three movements: the nationalist “Balli Kombëtar,” the royalist Legality movement, and the communist partisans, which soon began fighting one another. In 1943 and 1944, Albania was caught up in a bitter civil war between the three. In November 1944, the communist partisans took power and began immediately with the arrest of all public figures who were perceived to have collaborated with the occupiers or not to have supported the communist liberation movement. Sixty of these public figures were the object a treason trial in March 1945 at a communist Special Court for War Criminals and Enemies of the People, conducted by Prosecutor Koçi Xoxe (1917-1949). One of the prominent accused in the trial was Bahri Omari (1889-1945).

Bahri Omari (1889-1945)



Bahri Omari (1889-1945)



Bahri Omari (1889-1945)


Born in Gjirokastra and educated in Turkey, Bahri Omari emigrated to the United States and edited the Boston newspaper “Dielli” (The Sun), organ of the Vatra federation. He returned to Albania at the end of the First World War and was a member of parliament for Gjirokastra from 1921 to 1924, when he founded the Democratic National Party. He left Albania when Ahmet Zogu took power in 1924 and spent the years from 1925 to 1939 in Paris. There he was a member of “Bashkimi Kombëtar” (National Union). Omari returned to Albania in 1939 and accepted a position on the council of state. In late 1943, he served as foreign minister in the cabinet of Rexhep bey Mitrovica, and was a member of the executive board of “Balli Kombëtar.” Omari was married to Enver Hoxha’s sister, but this family link to the future dictator was not sufficient to protect him when the communists came to power in late 1944. He was sentenced to death at the trial on 13 April 1945 and was executed the next day in a ditch at Kodra e Priftit in Tirana.

 

The Hearing of Bahri Omari

After asking the accused war criminal Bahri Omari about his personal details, the President read out the charges against him:

 

  1. “You were in relations with the Italians prior to the occupation of Albania on 7th April 1945,

  2. You collaborated with the Italian fascist occupiers, accepting from them economic assistance, monthly and permanent allowances,

  3. You were an organizer and inspiration of the mercenary and traitorous organisation Balli Kombëtar,

  4. As a member of the Quisling government of Rexhep Mitrovica, you served the occupiers by oppressing the people in the terror of February 1944, and by torture, internment, execution, looting, etc.,

  5. You aided and ordered the mobilization of our people in the service of the enemy (recruitment campaign for the gendarmerie),

  6. You cooperated with those who robbed State property (you approved making a loan to the Germans and also approved the destruction of the port of Durrës),

  7. You betrayed the war of the people, being in relations with the enemy (with the operations of Balli, the government and the Germans against the National Liberation Army. You also negotiated with foreign reactionaries as minister of foreign affairs, against the people).

What have you to say for all these?”

“The first charge made against me, Mr. President, for treason, I believe was formulated by the Investigation Committee based on an article by Mustafa Kruja in the paper Roja Kombëtare. I therefore do not accept it by any means. When the discussions took place in Grenoble (France), I was under surveillance in Bari (Italy).”

President: “In which group were you, Bahri Omari?”

“In that of Bashkimi Kombëtar.”

President: “The agreement between Mustafa Kruja and the Italians was designed to bring about the fall of Zog and to replace him with an Italian prince. Did you know that, Bahri Omari?”

“I learned about this agreement later when Italy invaded Albania because our letters were censored by the Italian police. Two or three months before the arrival of the Italians in Albania, Maliq Bushati went to Italy and, in the presence of Sheh Karbunara and Kostë Paftali, he told us that an uprising was underway in Albania. I told them that I agreed with an uprising against Zog but was afraid of Italian intervention in accordance with the treaty it had reached with Zog. I do not know anything about the agreement made in France as I was not present, but my companion Kolë Tromara can tell you more about this.”

President: “Was the agreement between Koculi and Mustafa Kruja made in the name of the organisation Bashkimi Kombëtar?”

“I do not know, but I suspect so.”

President: “Did you agree with that policy?”

“No, Mr. President.”

President: “Then why did you return to Albania with them?”

I arrived in Albania two months after the Italians landed. I came back because the Italians would not permit me to move around. I was under surveillance. We had to wire the Albanian government because the Italians would not allow us to return to Albania. Kostë Paftali and Beqir Velo can testify about this.”

President: “Did you receive allowances from Italy?”

“Never. One time, the prefect of Bari called for us and asked us if we needed anything and promised us help. But we refused his help categorically.”

President: “But if you were against the policy of Mustafa Kruja, why didn’t you protest against the declaration of Bashkimi Kombëtar?”

“Yes, Mr. President, we wanted to. Ali Këlcyra had prepared a pamphlet to protest against the statements of Mustafa Kruja, but he did not have time to publish it. With his statements Mustafa Kruja wanted to compromise others for his mistaken policy. This happened at the exact time when Balli Kombëtar was formed.”

President: “Alright, there was no time to publish this pamphlet, but later on, what did you do? Did you protest?”

“At that time we had no papers. And we had no way of protesting. As for myself, Mr. President, believe me that I had no part in it.”

President: “So you wanted to leave the group, when you say, ‘for myself’? I understand by your replies that you did not object to this collaboration. As soon as you arrived in Albania, you received pay and were promoted in the same way as Kostandin Kotte and others.”

“No, no, Mr. President. I do not know anything. I did not receive a single penny.”

 

(The President orders that a list be read out in the Italian language, where the accused Bahri Omari’s name is mentioned and in which Ernest Koliqi recommends giving him a monthly allowance of 400 Albanian francs.)

 

“No, Mr. President, this is not true at all. I have no idea about this recommendation and I received no monthly allowance.”

Prosecutor: “Bahri Omari, Comrade Judges, speaks to us of the dissolution of the Bashkimi Kombëtar; he speaks about internment; he says he has no idea and that he only learned about this in Rome after being sent for. Bahri Omari, Comrade Judges, must know that he is before the People’s Court and must take responsibility as a member of the Bashkimi Kombëtar group. Bahri Omari was in Italy and was a member of Bashkimi Kombëtar. If that group had won out, he would have remained a member of that group. Otherwise a political group has no meaning, and this group agreed to cooperate with the enemy even before April 7th! The accused says that when Mustafa Kruja announced the treaty in Tirana, that there was no possibility of protesting against it! He also says that Ali Këlcyra had prepared a pamphlet to protest, but could not publish it. Not only did Ali Këlcyra not protest, nor did Bahri Omari. If he had been against the treaty, seeing the damage done to our country, he could have protested from Rome. They must have seen that this was treason and accepted it. Not only did they not protest, but on arrival here, they were presented with money (payments) and posts. Now, before the People’s Court in an unworthy manner, they seek to escape from this responsibility. It is a fact, Comrade President, that the accused was in Rome, was in the Bashkimi Kombëtar group, and did not protest. When Mustafa Kruja announced the treaty, why did they not protest? Why did they not make their views known to the Albanian people and declare that this was treason? The accused claims that Mustafa Kruja wanted to compromise them. If they did not object to him, it means that they agreed with him. This is the reality!”

“The Prosecutor is making allusions by relating the group of Bashkimi Kombëtar to that of Mustafa Kruja. Why does the Prosecutor not ask the reason for the separation of the Bashkimi Kombëtar group from that of Mustafa Kruja? The reason is that Bashkimi Kombëtar was anti-Italian and anti-fascist. And this policy was followed here.”

Prosecutor: “The Prosecution, Comrade Judges, is not making allusions, but showing facts. Bahri Omari cannot convince us about the dissolution of this group and we do not believe that Bashkimi Kombëtar withdrew from the group of Mustafa Kruja because the later followed a pro-Italian policy. Proof of the activity of a political group is in its work. We have seen the work of Bashkimi Kombëtar and that of Bahri Omari, and find the contrary. If it were true that Bashkimi Kombëtar was an anti-Italian organisation, it would have thrown the treaty into Mustafa Kruja’s face.”

“Mr. President, I have concrete facts. I was interned in Bari. Twenty days before the Italian invasion of Albania, the Italian government decreed my expulsion, but it was not carried out because I protested about my economical indigence. If I had been in favour of Mustafa Kruja’s policy, why then would the Italian government decree my expulsion? And before the Italians invaded, the police would not allow us to go back to Albania.”

Prosecutor: “What is the accused telling us here, Comrade Judges? On the one hand, he tells us that he was being detained by the police and on the other hand, he says that there was a decree for his expulsion. What are all these curious stories? Did he return to Albania occupied by the Italians? Did he receive payments and a posting! He is here before the People’s Court charged with undeniable facts. Where were his protests against the occupation? Where was his fight against the occupiers? Where was his protest before the world? What is Bahri Omari telling us here? This political figure looks ridiculous!”

“One day, we (Bahri Omari and Ali Këlcyra) received a telegram from Mustafa Kruja inviting us to go to Rome. I cannot remember the exact date, but I think it was about twenty or twenty-five days after the landing of the Italians in Albania. We went to Rome and there, in addition to Mustafa Kruja, we met Jacomoni and Giro. Jacomoni made a speech saying that Albania would become a “paradise”.”

President: “You certainly must have accepted that!”

“No, no, Mr. President. With admirable courage, Ali Këlcyra, stated that he viewed this act of the Italians with scepticism, and was afraid that our country was being colonized. He quoted the new law issued in Tirana on equal rights for Italians and Albanians, a law which did not have any practical benefit to the Albanians. It was solely of benefit to the Italians.”

A Member: “Why then did you come back?”

“Because of our financial condition.”

A Member: “But how is it that, as soon as you returned from Italy, your situation improved?”

“This also has its reasons. As the people of Albania know, when the Italians landed in Albania, the international situation was not clear. It was then that the Prime Minister of Great Britain Chamberlain and Mr Eden declared that they had no interest in Albania. If we had had any hopes, we lost them at that moment.”

President: “How is it that you great politicians who were abroad for more than twenty years returned here exactly when Albania was being occupied? Taking employment increased the credit of the occupiers.”

“As I said before, our financial situation did not allow us to remain abroad any longer.”

Prosecutor: “It must be noted here, Comrade Judges, that, although the accused alleges that their financial situation did not permit them to stay abroad any longer, they knew full well that laws had been passed against the interests of our country. He arrived in Albania and recognized foreign domination. He received payments, allowances and a job. Bahri Omari did this for money. There were other patriots like Bahri Omari who were abroad and returned to Albania at the time of the occupation, but they changed their path and protested and opposed the occupiers, whereas Bahri Omari continued his path until he arrived in the dock of the accused, before the People’s Court. He has made it clear that he measured his patriotism with financial reward.”

“Mr. President, the Prosecutor is trying to twist my words.”

Prosecutor: “The Prosecutor is here to defend the people and has only repeated what the accused said himself. Let him not play word games, but answer to us here.”

President: “Tell us, Bahri Omari, were you at this time for or against the occupiers?”

“Against them, Mr. President.”

President: “What did you then do?”

“Here is what I did when I returned. I was against the occupiers from the moment I got here. The first organisation that was created here by real nationalists, in November-December 1939, called me to participate with them as a good patriot. The main idea of this organisation was to inform the public mouth-to-mouth about the occupiers and to prepare for the future. In the beginning, this organisation was not called Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “Who participated in this organisation?”

“In the beginning I knew neither its heads nor its members. But after the conference of Peza, Mid’hat Frashëri called me and charged me with negotiating with the members of the National Liberation movement.”

President: “When did Balli Kombëtar come out with its ten-point programme? Before or after the Conference of Peza?”

“I don’t remember, Mr. President, because I was not paying any particular attention to the affairs of Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “You did not tell us who the heads of this organisation were.”

“Mid’hat Frashëri, Kolë Tromara, Ali Këlcyra, Hasan Dosti, Fuat Dibra and Nuredin Vlora.”

President: “How did this group of men participate at the Conference of Peza, as an organisation or as individuals?”

“Individually, Skender Muço and Azis Çami were present.”

President: “Why as individuals? Why did they not go there together as an organisation?”

“I do not know whether Mid’hat Frashëri and Hasan Dosti were invited to the Conference of Peza, from which emerged the National Liberation movement. As I told you, Mr. President, I don’t remember whether Balli Kombëtar was created before or after the Conference of Peza. I was not very involved in the affairs of Balli Kombëtar.”
President: “Why did Balli Kombëtar emerge after the Conference of Peza and the creation of National Liberation Front?”

“I don’t know, Mr. President. Those who were its leaders know much more about it than I do.”

Prosecutor: “The Court, Comrade Judges, has before it a political figure who was abroad as an emigrant for twenty years and has before it a man who calls himself a patriot, a man who says that he was interested in the fate of the people. When the judges ask him about Balli, he says that he does not know anything, and when he is asked how he opposed the occupiers, he declares that they used to make mouth-to-mouth propaganda. But where then is his political activity in favour of our people? He does not know anything about Balli or the Conference of Peza, which was talked about and made known here in Tirana. Does he mean that he was entirely withdrawn from politics?”

“I knew as much about the Conference of Peza as everyone else did.”

Prosecutor: “The accused said that he returned for financial reasons and that he was involved in anti-fascist activities, yet when he is asked about matters that everyone knew, he says that he was not informed about them.”

“Not at all.”

Prosecutor: “This means, Comrade Judges, that Bahri Omari and his cohorts did not act against the fascist occupation. He also says that there was a political group, and that he was in touch not only with Mid’hat Frashëri but also with Mustafa Kruja and many others, and today he is prevaricating.”

“I was not involved in the affairs of Balli Kombëtar, Mr. President. A person can only answer about things he knows. I learnt of the Conference of Peza from my brother-in-law [Enver Hoxha].”

President: “You did not tell us - when did Balli Kombëtar emerge, before or after the Conference of Peza?”

“I can’t remember, Mr. President, I am an old man. I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night!”

President: “But you well remember what pleases you. You remember that your movement was in existence in November 1939? This means that you do not want to tell us the truth, Bahri Omari?”

“There is no reason why I should lie. I simply can’t remember it.”

President: “Bahri Omari, were you a member of Balli Kombëtar?”

“Yes, I was.”

President: “Then answer this. Tell us of the policy and line of this organisation.”

“The political course of Balli Kombëtar was announced in its ten-point programme. Its aim was to make propaganda and prepare for the future, later on, against the enemy.”

President: “Did you ever fight the enemy?”

“In the beginning there was fighting in Vlora and Mallakastra.”

President: “When was that?”

“I can’t remember. Do not ask me for dates, Mr. President.”

Balli Kombëtar fighters in the Second World War.


Balli Kombëtar fighters in the Second World War.



Balli Kombëtar fighters in the
Second World War.

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, you have here before you a leader of Balli Kombëtar who is well informed of the political course of this organisation. You have before you Bahri Omari who fled from Gjirokastra when our comrades entered it, and was wounded in Himara. He is a man who joined the government as a representative of Balli Kombëtar. He must therefore answer correctly and tell us exactly what he remembers and what he does not remember.”

A Member: “As a member of Balli you should know its political course. What was it?”

“I told you, propaganda and war against the occupiers when the time came. My personal opinion was that we should wage total war.”

President: “Did you declare, Bahri Omari, that we should wage one-tenth war and nine-tenths politics?”

“Yes, I said that.”

President: “Is it true that you went to Gjirokastra and told the people there to wait because the day would come, and that in the meanwhile they should wait, prepare and form an army and gendarmerie.”

“Yes, I said that.”

President: “At the very time a war was already going on?”

“Yes, I told them to prepare.”

President: “Why did you create the councils?”

“They were created by Balli.”

President: “Yes, by Balli, but why did it create them?”

“To fight the occupiers. But let us make it clear, Mr. President; in a meeting (where 80% were members of the National Liberation movement) I stated that the gendarmerie ought to be created, because I never believed that they would be capable of creating and organizing bands with discipline as they did.”

President: “Is it true that you spoke out against war and, if we went on the offensive, the enemy would persecute and destroy the country?”

“I said that we must be prudent with the war and that the enemy was strong and would destroy us. This was my view of what the war with Greece had cost us.”

President: “But how could you speak on matters that did not accord with the political course of your organisation?”

“In this instance, I was speaking as an individual, as Bahri Omari. As a Gjirokastra man and not on behalf of Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “Was this the course of Balli Kombëtar?”

“I do not think that this was the course of Balli. But, as I said, I was speaking as an individual.”

A Member: “You said in those meetings: ‘I am not speaking as Bahri Omari but as a soldier of Balli.’”

“Where did I say this?”

A Member: “In that mixed committee for assistance.”

“I quoted my own personal opinion.”

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, the case of the accused is very weak. He goes to Gjirokastra on behalf of Balli Kombëtar and as its member. There he explains the course of Balli Kombëtar. And then in the end, he states that it was only his own personal opinion. The accused must tell us directly what the course of Balli Kombëtar was? Because he told us that Balli was only in favour of war against the occupiers when the proper time arrived.”

“I said that we must work prudently and that only small actions should be carried out.”

Prosecutor: “Now he tells us about small actions. This man who speaks of small actions from big conferences of the people goes hand in hand with Italian officers, drinks beer with them and is not arrest by them.”

“But this was not illegal, Mr. President. And the people of Gjirokastra honoured me twice by electing me as their deputy. I spoke there as a man from Gjirokastra and not on behalf of Balli. I think the Prosecutor and the judge Gaqo Floqi were present.”

Prosecutor: “Bahri Omari says that in that meeting he came as an individual. He went there as delegate of Balli Kombëtar and he admitted this himself by saying that he had not come as Bahri Omari, but as a soldier of Balli Kombëtar. He saw in that large meeting that he had lost his credit with the people, who replied: ‘We will fight’. Today the court has all the facts, which speak of the treason of Balli Kombëtar and its cooperation with the occupiers.”

“I have not come here, Mr. President, to speak on behalf of Balli Kombëtar and to answer for its acts because I was one of those who criticized Balli for having got mixed up with many other elements.”

President: “But how could you fight the occupiers by joining the Quisling government as a delegate of Balli Kombëtar?”

“No, Mr. President, I did not join it as a delegate of Balli Kombëtar.”

 

(The President orders his depositions made before the committee of investigation to be read out, in which the accused stated as follows: “I joined the government as a delegate of Balli Kombëtar on the proposal of Mid’hat Frashëri, Koço Muka and Ali Këlcyra”. The same depositions were made by the accused before the Command for Popular Defence and when confronted with Kolë Tromara, and minutes were recorded about this.)

 

President: “Bahri Omari, did you sign these. Were you forced to do so by someone?”

“No, this was inadvertent.”

President: “Did you correct the depositions by hand?”

“Yes, but I will explain why I said this.”

President: “Have you repented?”

“I will explain. When I was questioned, and was I was interrogated by many persons, I lost my mind. Mid’hat Frashëri did not tell me to join, he simply said that if they ask you to take part in the government, do not refuse. But I told him that I would take part not as a delegate of Balli Kombëtar but only in a private capacity.”

President: “Bahri Omari, you have admitted it three times. The first time at the Command for Popular Defence, the second time before the Committee for the Investigation of War Criminals, and the third time when you were confronted with Kolë Tromara. And now you claim that you said so and so. These are lies. Do you know what responsibility you take upon yourself by denying your signature? And especially for depositions made before the investigation group! Stick to your depositions!”

“I do not doubt the justice of the investigation group, Mr. President, and I do not want to alter my depositions, but when a person is questioned for three hours continuously, he can get confused.”

President: “Bahri Omari, did you say at that meeting in Gjirokastra that you could not take any decisions without first asking the Central Committee of Balli?”

“Yes, about the matter of assistance.”

President: “Then after that, you put forth the idea of small armed bands, and when the National Liberation movement made its last appeal to you for war against the occupiers, you and Kolë Tromara said to the representatives of the National Liberation movement that the enemy could not be fought with small bands. You stated: ‘The time has not arrive; wait until we get the towns and villages’ and many other slogans of Balli Kombëtar.”

“I expressed my views to the people of the National Liberation movement, and I discussed this with Enver Hoxha, Ymer Dishnica and Sheh Karbunara many times in my house, and I was speaking of my own accord and not as a leader of Balli Kombëtar. But I cannot remember exactly what I said because it was a long time ago.”
President: “Were you not charged by Mid’hat Frashëri with speaking to the people of the National Liberation movement?”

“I was charged once by Mid’hat Frashëri, Chief of Balli, to speak with Enver Hoxha, Ymer Dishnica and Mustafa Gjinishi. But I did not agree to talk to them because they told me that they represented the Communist Party and the National Liberation movement. Personally I could not imagine what we would have to discuss and I said this to Mid’hat Frashëri so that he would charge other people to do so. I told them that I recognized them as communists but I could not understand their being representatives of the National Liberation movement because I understood that they would be nationalists like me. I do not know whether it was a good idea to have talked to them or not. I don’t know whether you would call this sabotage.”

President: “Was your refusal to talk to them Balli Kombëtar’s line?”

“I had indeed heard that in its pamphlets Balli Kombëtar had stated that the National Liberation movement was merely a mask for the communists.”

President: “You did not reply, Bahri Omari, why did such changes happen? First, the idea of the small bands and then liberation of the towns and villages, and then you said that you would take them but not burn them down, and after that, the formation of battalions and a big army. What do you say about all these things?”

“This is the first time I hear about battalions and big army.”

President: “And the liberation of the towns and villages?”

“Me? To whom did I say that?”

President: “Ymer Dishnica and Mustafa Gjinishi.”

Prosecutor: “This was the line of Balli Kombëtar, Comrade Judges. Ismail Golemi stated that they should not fight in the villages but we should go and take Gjirokastra, to liberate it. On the other hand, Ali Këlcyra used to say that the right time had not yet come. The same thing was heard in Gjirokastra, in Korça and elsewhere. Bahri Omari is now telling us the same story here. They did not want to fight but just kept telling stories to the people, stories that had been fabricated by the Central Committee of Balli Kombëtar.”

“I did not take an active part in Balli Kombëtar. I did not and do not know the slogans of Balli. I spoke to the representatives of the National Liberation movement in a personal capacity, as Bahri Omari.”

President: “Did you refuse to talk to the delegates of the National Liberation movement in a personal capacity or as a representative of Balli Kombëtar?”

“As delegated by Mid’hat Frashëri.”

President: “Was it in the interest of the people or not that the National Liberation Front appealed to you? You were not there simply as an individual, as you admit yourself. You were delegated by Mid’hat Frashëri.”

“I went and told Mid’hat Frashëri that I could not undertake this task and that he should appoint someone else. So I refused the task given to me.”

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, you can see that the accused is not answering correctly about having sabotaged the war effort. Let him tell us openly what he wanted of them?”

“Nothing at all. The discussions were cut short because we could not come to an understanding.”

President: “Tell us, Bahri Omari, what did you want of them?”

“I did not accept them as communists.”

President: “Was this your idea?”

“Yes.”

President: “And that of Balli Kombëtar?”

“I don’t know.”

Prosecutor: “I will prove that it was the scheme of Balli Kombëtar, Comrade Judges. The men of the National Liberation movement were not accepted in Korça, in Gjirokastra or in Vlora when they were regarded as communists. It was said that the communist party was sold to the Russians and Yugoslavs. Bahri Omari knows this very well, but is seeking to avoid these questions. They wanted to eradicate the communist party, although they knew well that among its members were the best of patriots, men who were fighting against all the occupiers.”

“I was always for union.”

Prosecutor: “The day has now arrived for giving accounts. Answer now in the People’s Court, Bahri Omari! The day has come of which you never dreamed. Speak up!”

President: “Did you say, Bahri Omari, that we should save our forces for the fight against Yugoslavia and Greece, because our struggle would only begin when the war ended?”

“It is true that I spoke in Gjirokastra because I was afraid of our neighbours. But I can’t remember having said that our struggle only begins when the war ends.”
President: “What was being done at that time in Yugoslavia and Greece, were they not fighting the occupiers?”

“They fought too, but I don’t know the kind of war.”

President: “While the Greeks and Yugoslavs were fighting the occupiers side by side with the Allies, as we were doing, too, you were speaking out about small armed bands and against the Allies.”

“As regards England’s attitude towards us, I must tell you that I read a document by the one-time British minister in Albania, Mr. Hatson, in which he said that he could not understand how his many Albanian friends believed in England’s policies, when England was not interested in Albanian affairs. And as for sparing our forces to be used in proper time, I also read this in the Albanian paper Mundimi printed in Bari, in which it was said that forces should be kept in reserve and not used for harmful operations. I heard the same thing transmitted on the radio from London.”

President: “At that time, England, America and Russia, our Allies, had recognized our war and independence.”

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, Bahri Omari must be convicted because he now appears to be against the Allies.”

“No, no. I was in favour of the Allies.”

 

(People shout: “Bahri Omari is a traitor!”)

 

Prosecutor: “The accused here quotes two lines from Mundimi which refer to waging war by small armed bands. But Bahri Omari did not even do that. Why did Bahri Omari hear only these two lines and turn a deaf ear to Wilson’s appeal?”

“Which Wilson do you mean? Ah, yes, yes, Wilson.”

Prosecutor: “Yes, yes, the Wilson who called on all of us to wage war against the occupiers, otherwise he would consider them as people who fought with the occupiers against the Allies. In their public addresses, Comrade Judges, these figures told the people that the men of the National Liberation movement were communists and allies of the Russians, and presented England as an enemy of our people. In this tribunal of the people we have unmasked Bahri Omari, Ali Këlcyra, Dervish Rexhepi and all their companions who tried to divide the people. The people abandoned them and joined the war against the occupiers. The people realized the treacherous ways of Balli Kombëtar, and for this reason, Bahri Omari has not got the courage to say that he went to Gjirokastra not as an individual but as a representative of Balli Kombëtar. Bahri Omari must answer concretely. Did he state that Balli Kombëtar would make war on the occupiers?”

“Yes.”

Prosecutor: “Did he say that it should fight when the right time came?”

“Yes.”

Prosecutor: “He stated that he spoke in Gjirokastra about the organisation of Balli Kombëtar.”

“Maybe.”

Prosecutor: “He said that gendarmes and soldiers should not desert.”

“I said this, too.”

Prosecutor: “Well then, when he stated at a public meeting that they would fight when the time was right, would those who heard him be willing to take to arms and set off to fight the occupiers at the end of the meeting?”

“No.”

Prosecutor: “This was the very motto of Balli Kombëtar, to sabotage the war of the National Liberation movement.”

“I speak here as an individual, as Bahri Omari.”

Prosecutor: “Yes, but we cannot separate Bahri Omari from Balli Kombëtar because he was a leader of that organisation. In a circular of Balli Kombëtar dated 6 February 1942, issued by the Balli headquarters, nothing is said about the war against fascism, against the Italians: “To be able to get the situation in each town under control, we must have an armed force in any event, waiting for the time when we will be able to take power”. With its pamphlets, Balli Kombëtar seemed to be undertaking a clear anti-fascist stance. But the people of Balli were not arrested and the pamphlets were not confiscated, because it was fashionable to speak out against fascism, which had gone bankrupt. However, those who took up arms and went up into the mountains to fight the occupiers were persecuted. These people wanted to form armed bands to sabotage our struggle. The motto of Balli Kombëtar was always to sabotage our struggle. The Conference of Peza took place and the occupiers were being fought on all sides. The people were organised, and Balli Kombëtar came out against this movement, to sabotage the war of this movement, the war of National Liberation Front. In the policies of Balli Kombëtar one can see a great mistrust of the Allies. It was Professor Safet Butka himself who proved all of this in a letter he sent to the sub-prefect of Kolonja, stating that no food should be given to the communists, and that sabotage was harmful to the Italian army and the nationalists. This is true, because they were combating our armed bands everywhere. Not only did they distribute no food, but they also sent people away, saying that they should go home. Albania was divided into many districts. Albania was very much divided! Safet Butka himself spoke of harm being done to the Italian army and to the nationalists”. Balli burnt down the houses of our volunteers.”

 

(The Prosecutor reads out a letter from Abas Ermenji to Safet Butka, in which he says that he should not take any notice of instructions from Balli headquarters, but should enter the war. The Prosecutor also reads out a letter from Jani Dilo dated 23 August 1943, stating that Major McLean was pressing Balli to fight, but for many reasons it was not possible to take any actions. When action was taken in Barmash, McLean insisted that this was not enough but that activities should be carried on continuously.)

 

“I cannot answer here for what Balli Kombëtar did. I can only answer for what I did.”

President: “What was Balli’s line?”

“Mr. President, to know Balli’s line, one would have to have been a leading member. Even when Mid’hat Frashëri called me, I did not come to an agreement with him, and so he went away.”

President: “In his letter of 29 June, Abas Ermenji states that Balli Kombëtar had not done any fighting. What do you say, Bahri Omari, had Balli Kombëtar fought or not?”

“There was some small fighting, but in comparison to that of the National Liberation movement, is was insignificant.”

President: “In Gjirokastra, did you state that they should not fight?”

“Yes.”

President: “Was this Balli’s line or yours?”

“Balli said the same.”

President: “Well, there you are, Bahri Omari, your line was the line of Balli. Why then do you say that you were not speaking on behalf of Balli?”

“Mr. President, I stated that they should not fight near villages so as to avoid damage being done. But if I said so, as Bahri Omari, this does not mean that it was Balli’s policy.”

President: “What did the people of the villages tell you about the band of Jonus Topulli?”

“Jonus Topulli had formed a band for Balli, but I don’t know if he ever fought or spoke out against the armed bands of the National Liberation movement.”

President: “But when you told the people in the villages that the band of Jonus Topulli had arms for training, did they not reply that swimming could not be learned on land, but in water? By the same token, use of arms can only be learned by fighting and not by keep them on your shoulder?”

“I did not say this, Mr. President.”

President: “Tell us, Bahri Omari, why did you go into hiding in Gjirokastra?”

“Because people were being killed, Mr. President.”

Prosecutor: “Who did they kill? They killed Safedin Hadëri, that traitor and distributor of all your slogans. Whom did they kill? They killed Muzafer Shehu who raped our female fighters. He then claimed that the communists had taken the girls up into the mountains to rape them. Whom else did they kill? Emin Kokalari, an agent of S.I.M. And when the National Liberation Front killed Vasil Shahini, all of you rose and defended your enemy of yesterday by saying that the communists had killed a patriot like Vasil Shahini. The Bishop of Janina also repeated this.”

“I left Gjirokastra secretly, Mr. President, because the women told to do so for men were being killed.”

Prosecutor: “If Bahri Omari had not been mixed up in these things, he would not have had to flee, but he knew that he would be sentenced to death. Bahri Omari was ambushed in Himara, was fired upon and was wounded. When he returned to Tirana, he acted with even more brutality against our movement.”

“I can prove the contrary.”

President: “What can you tell us about the battle of Nexhmo Bejleri in Libohova?”

“What Nexhmo Bejleri did in Libohova was considered treachery and for this the Central Committee of Balli sentenced him to death.”

President: “We know that it was you who gave instructions to Nexhmo Bejleri. On whose order did Nexhmo Bejleri go to Libohova?”

“I do not know.”

President: “Were you in Gjirokastra then?”

“I can’t remember that, Mr. President.”

Prosecutor: “Nexhmo Bejleri, Comrade Judges, was sentenced to death by these people when he agreed to join the ranks of the National Liberation movement and was opposed to the treason of Balli Kombëtar, saying that if anybody was to be condemned, it would be the traitors of Balli Kombëtar. Balli Kombëtar is the cause of all attempts to persuade the people that our movement was a communist movement, without scruples, honour and morals, a movement which would destroy mosques and tekkes.”

 

(The President orders that a declaration be read out by which it is shown that the order given to Nexhmo Bejleri to go to Libohova was also signed by Bahri Omari.)

 

“I am supposed to have done such foolish things? Impossible! I was in Gjirokastra three times. Twice I went to meet some friends and one time I was sent there by Mid’hat Frashëri.”

President: “You stooped to such depths, Bahri Omari?”

 

(He shows him the pamphlet written by Bahri Omari.)

 

President: “Did you write this pamphlet?”

“Yes, I did. I cannot deny it.”

Prosecutor: “Then let the court judge for itself if you, as author of this document of Balli Kombëtar, were simply an ordinary secretary of Balli Kombëtar. What Bahri Omari is telling us is nonsense.”

“I can tell you this. When Jonus Topulli came to the committee…”

President: “What did you say? When he came to the committee? But you stated that you were not in the committee?”

 

(Bahri Omari is trapped.)

 

President: “Tell us, did Balli Kombëtar collaborate with the government, or not?”

“Balli Kombëtar did not collaborate with the Italian government.”

President: “And what about the Dalmazzo-Këlcyra protocol?”

“I do not call that a compromise. This agreement was made at the time of Maliq Bushati’s government. General Dalmazzo explained his wish to Maliq Bushati to meet some of the nationalist leaders.”

President: “Was Kolë Tromara at that dinner?”

“No, Mr. President, he was not there.”

President: “Then why is his name mentioned in the paper.”

“It is not true. I can remember what happened that day and that night.”

President: “You can remember that day and that night but you cannot remember the other things that are not to your advantage. Alright, Bahri Omari, carry on, carry on!”

“Tell us, was this protocol a compromise or was it not?”

“In my opinion, it was not. Ali had no authority from the committee to make such an treaty.”

President: “Did Ali not then order the armed bands of Balli Kombëtar to stop fighting?”

“I don’t know.”

 

(The President calls Ismail Golemi to stand up. He confirms the orders given by Ali Këlcyra to cease hostilities.)

 

President: “Ismail Golemi, Did Ali say that of his own initiative or on behalf of Balli?”

“Ali, Mr. President, was a principal member of the Balli committee.”

Prosecutor: “Was Ismail Golemi in Kurvelesh and what was he doing there when the meeting at Rehova took place?”

Ismail Golemi: “I took part in the first operations.”

Prosecutor: “Neither Balli Kombëtar nor Bahri Omari can escape their responsibility. Kurvelesh was burnt down by Balli Kombëtar in collaboration with the Italians on orders of General Dalmazzo. Ali Këlcyra then told the population: “You see what happened to Kurvelesh? Be careful now because you will suffer the same fate”. This was a plot to sabotage the war of the people against the occupiers. They did this so as to let people of Zagoria think that Ali Këlcyra wanted to take Zagoria by force. He reminded the commander that Zagoria had an Orthodox population and when London heard that Zagoria and its Orthodox population had been attacked, slaughtered and burnt down by the Moslems, it would be to our great detriment. In this perfidious way, Ali Këlcyra cast the seeds of division.”

President: “Ismail Golemi, is this what Ali Këlcyra said?”

Ismail Golemi: “At the meeting, Ali Këlcyra said exactly what Mr. Prosecutor just said. As I stated in my trial, since that day, I have hated Ali Këlcyra, and when he departed, I did not even shake hands with him.”

 

(Ismail Golemi returns to his place and the President questions Bahri Omari.)

 

President: “Well, Bahri Omari, was the Dalmazzo-Këlcyra agreement a compromise or not?”

“In a way, it was a compromise, but Ali Këlcyra simply wanted to gain time. For me it was a deal and, if I am not mistaken, Ali Këlcyra was not acting on behalf of the central committee of Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “But was Ali Këlcyra not a leading member of Balli Kombëtar, Bahri Omari? Answer!”

“Yes, he was.”

President: “Well, then?”

 

(Bahri Omari is trapped again, does not know what to say and tries to save himself by lying.)

 

Prosecutor: “I have hereby proved that the Balli Kombëtar organisation, in which Bahri Omari took part, is responsible more than any others for this treachery and that Bahri Omari was a main figure of this organisation, and, as such, all responsibility falls on Bahri Omari. The whole people of Albania agree with this.”

“I reject this categorically, Mr. Prosecutor.”

Prosecutor: “Balli Kombëtar wanted to have the heroes of this war for itsself, but instead had only thieves and criminals, like Xhelal Staravecka. These are the facts!”

 

(Various Balli Kombëtar documents and letters are read out from which show that the Ballists committed illegal acts in the various districts of Albania, such as seizing money, grain and clothing, and looting, as proved by the signatures of the commanders of Balli Kombëtar who intimidated those who refused to pay).

 

Prosecutor: “What are these deeds, Bahri Omari? They are like gangsters in America!”

“I did not rob anyone, Mr. President, but I realise that they did many bad things.”
Prosecutor: “We have proven here that Bahri Omari was a leading figure of Balli Kombëtar in Gjirokastra, where all those deeds, robberies and crimes took place. This was where Bahri Omari published his pamphlet, the pamphlet of Balli Kombëtar. Now Bahri Omari must bear responsibility before the People’s Court for all these robberies and crimes.

President: “Bahri Omari, did you agree to all these robberies, crimes and burnings?”
“While I was there, nothing of the sort happened.”

Prosecutor: “How is that? Weren’t the people of Gjirokastra pillaged? Didn’t Safedin Hadëri steal from shops in broad daylight? What is the accused telling us here, Comrade Judges? At that time, the people of Gjirokastra were pleading: ‘We are being gobbled up by Balli Kombëtar that has stripped us and robbed us’ What other facts does he want?”

“I beg you, Mr. President, do not charge me with things I did not do.”

President: “Did you approve of the politics of Balli Kombëtar?”

“Up to a certain time, yes I did.”

Member: “Up to when? Until the fall of the cabinet?”

“Until things got serious.”

President: “Tell us, Bahri Omari, did Balli Kombëtar learn that Ali Këlcyra had signed an agreement with Dalmazzo?”

“Of course it did.”

President: “What did Balli Kombëtar then do? Did it protest?”

“No.”

President: “Which means that it accepted it?”

“That would be the logical conclusion. If it did not protest, it must have accepted it.”

President: “What were the relations between Balli Kombëtar and the first government of Eqrem Libohova like?”

“The people of Balli Kombëtar were greatly opposed to Mustafa Kruja’s government. One day, Kolë Tromara, Sejfi Vllamasi, Rexhep Mitrovica and I, as nationalists, went to Mustafa Kruja and had a discussion with him that lasted for three hours, about the repressive measures he was taking. We were happy when Mustafa Kruja fell. I don’t think that the Balli people were particularly in favour of Eqrem Libohova’s government, but I do know that even though Eqrem Libohova pursued pro-Italian policies to the end, as a person he was honest and good-natured.”

President: “Was Balli Kombëtar not supported by Eqrem Libohova?”

“I don’t know.”

President: “But what were all those supportive measure that Eqrem Libohova wanted to carry out for the nationalists?”

“I don’t know what the measures were that Eqrem Libohova wanted to enact in favour of Balli Kombëtar, but if he wanted to favour the nationalists, this would have meant that he supported the members of Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “That means they had the same policy - the government and Balli, with the army, the gendarmerie and arms.”

“Yes, Mr. President, with regards the army and gendarmerie, Balli’s line was the same as that of Eqrem Libohova.”

President: “Where did the policy of Balli intersect with that of the Bushati government?”

“Balli was on good terms with Maliq Bushati’s government because of personal friendships. I was an old personal friend of Maliq Bushati? The attitude of Balli towards the Maliq Bushati government was positive because the leaders of Balli thought it best to support it so as to keep it from persecuting them.”

Prosecutor: “It is clear enough from the programme of the Maliq Bushati government, which in the end concluded an agreement with Balli Kombëtar and with Dalmazzo, that was to consolidate its power by the creation of a gendarmerie and an army.”

 

(The programme of the Bushati government is read out, in which mention is made of the creation of a gendarmerie and army, and of Ethnic Albania, etc.)

 

Prosecutor: “In all the depositions made, it has become clear that the accused was closely linked to Balli Kombëtar, and he was indeed a leader of the organisation. As such, he could not simply have had friendly relations with members of Balli, but political relations. We encounter the same motto in Balli Kombëtar as in the programme of the Bushati government: ‘Saving Albania from Anarchy’. Does the accused remember in Gjirokastra when Ali Këlcyra asked: ‘What is this anarchy?” At that time, the National Liberation councils were being created.”

President: “Tell us, Bahri Omari, what do you think of the policy of the National Liberation movement towards our neighbours?”

“I was in favour of it.”

President: “How? In what respect?”

“From the point of view of fraternity between the peoples.”

President: “And the policy of Balli Kombëtar?”

“I don’t think Balli Kombëtar had any intention of attacking our neighbours, and it is inconceivable that the Albanian people, as a small nation, could have done aggressive damage to our neighbours.”

President: “Was there any danger in 1941-1943 to Albania from the neighbouring countries? Balli Kombëtar spoke about danger from the Greeks. What do you say about this?”

“I don’t know of any Greek danger at that time. Balli Kombëtar spoken of the Greek danger based on past experience, and on danger in the future.”

President: “Did Balli Kombëtar mobilise soldiers for the war against Greece?”

“From what I know, Balli Kombëtar spoke out about not recruiting soldiers for war against the Greeks.”

President: “But who were Azis Çami, Rasim Babameto, Jup Kazazi and Faik Quku?”

“They were Balli men.”

President: “Did they not mobilise forces against Greece?”

“Some persons may have been involved in this, Mr. President.”

President: “Bahri Omari, don’t separate individual Balli men from Balli Kombëtar as you are attempting to do for yourself.”

“I am not talking about individuals. I am speaking in general terms. Balli Kombëtar was chaotic inside, but I am convinced that it never wanted war against Greece.”

President: “How was the policy of the National Liberation movement towards the neighbouring countries?”

“Quite in order and correct.”

President: “This is what you say now. But did you not say that the National Liberation movement had sold itself to the neighbouring countries?”

“Never.”

 

(The President orders that the statement of Jani Thomai be read out, in which he stated that when he one day asked Bahri Omari to assist the National Liberation Front from his office in the Council of State. Omari refused, saying: “I do not help those who have sold Albania to Moscow”.)

 

“I categorically deny having said anything like that to this person. I know this person because he was a secretary at the Council of State and asked me for help, but I told him that I could not give him anything because I was registered in another organization and was obliged to help it.”

Prosecutor: “This shows, Comrade Judges, that Bahri Omari was one of the most important leaders of Balli Kombëtar, who until the end remained allied with the occupiers, despite our continuous appeals from all sides.”

President: “What do you say about Albanian women taking part in the war?”

“I was against this because the Albanian character does not permit it.”

President: “And how did Balli Kombëtar, as an organisation, see it?”

“Do not ask me about Balli because I don’t know how Balli saw it.”

President: “We are asking you because you were a leader of that organisation. Now tell us, what did Mid’hat Frashëri as president of Balli Kombëtar say about this? What venom did he produce in his pamphlets against our female fighters? Do you know this or not?”

“He may have issued pamphlets against the women fighting, but I did not read them.”

Prosecutor: “The accused said that the Albanian character does not permit this. But what does the Albanian character accept? Let Bahri Omari show us.”

“I said, Mr. President, that our customs have not allowed girls to go up into the mountains and fight with the men.”

Prosecutor: “He said the Albanian character. Now he says customs. He is always deceiving us and does not stand by his word. Please, Comrade Judges, take note of these contradictions because they will be of significance when the decision is taken.”

“Mr. Prosecutor, I meant customs.”

President: “And what do you say now? Are you still of the opinion that women should not fight alongside the men?”

“No. Personally, I don’t like the idea, but I am of the opinion that the woman could serve as nurses, and could carry food and clothes to the soldiers.”

President: “Did you agree with Balli Kombëtar on the bad words spoken about them?”

“Not at all, Mr. President, never.”

President: “But what did you say? Did you protest when Balli Kombëtar joked about the morals and honour of Albanian women?”

“I swear, Mr. President, that I never heard such a thing.”

President: “Did you ever have doubts about the victory of Balli Kombëtar?”

Albanian partisans near Tirana on 21 November 1944.


Albanian partisans near Tirana on 21 November 1944.



Albanian partisans near Tirana
on 21 November 1944.

For Balli the war was lost at any rate. I was convinced that the Allies would win the war. I was of this opinion even when the situation was a bit critical for the Allies, when they lost Singapore. Balli in this case was in a difficult position as if were against the Allies, which is not at all true, and the leaders of Balli used to say that they wanted to fight but that the National Liberation movement had pinned them up against the wall.”

Prosecutor: “But we have many facts showing that Balli Kombëtar never really wanted to fight or even oppose the occupiers, although McLean pressed it to do so many times. It even hesitated after the fall of the Duce. It searched around for defenceless soldiers in the countryside to steal their money and their shoes and kill them in an unmanly fashion.”

President: “You said you were certain of the victory of the Allies. What did you do? You were a member of the Quisling government, you were minister of foreign affairs, you gave seven million to the Germans. It was with your knowledge that the port of Durrës was blown up, and you still carried on in the government with your hands in your pocket.”

“The government of Rexhep Mitrovica, in which I took part, was the one that proclaimed the independence and neutrality of Albania. This fact was confirmed by General Sir Maitland Wilson in a proclamation in which he said that he accepted the Albanian government on condition that it offer no help to the Germans and that in case any collaboration is noted, the declaration of neutrality would be invalid.”

President: “What did you think of the arrival of the Germans in Albania?”

“It was a misfortune.”

A Member: “What was the occupation like?

“It was a military occupation that left the government to act freely and respected freedom of the press, like Bashkimi i Kombit which was published at that time and which was virtually the freest paper in the world from a foreign policy point of view. That paper published Allied and Russian communiqués until the Germans eventually noticed and stopped it.”

 

(People begin to laugh.)

 

President: “Would you tell us, when did Hysni Dema arrive on the scene, in which administration?”

“In our government.”

President: “It was then that operations began against the National Liberation movement. What did you and your government do?”

“We mentioned this in our statement of resignation.”

President: “When did the operation begin?”

“About a month before we resigned.”

President: “Did you hear of the war the government was undertaking against the Allies. Did you hear of General Davies being taken prisoner?”

“Yes, I did.”

President: “Then what kind of neutrality did you have, only on paper?”

“Up to a certain point there was neutrality. This is true because I heard that Azis Biçaku took the British General Davies prisoner and handed him over to the Germans. I saw him at the hospital.”

Prosecutor: “When we were fighting at Cepo, Comrade Judges, they were staying in Gjirokastra with the Germans, and calling upon us to go to Gjirokastra and hand ourselves over to the Germans. They should be ashamed of themselves for claiming that they fought the occupiers. But Bahri Omari, Comrade Judges, has decided to defend the line of Balli Kombëtar, to defend compromise and treason. I have a letter from Esad Dishnica here which confirms the collaboration of Bahri Omari with Ali Këlcyra, Faik Quku and the others. They asked for independence from Germany and the Germans gave them that independence. They accepted it and continued on their road of treason. I have documents here from Balli Kombëtar that prove just how much damage was caused, how much blood was spilled, how many rapes were committed by Balli Kombëtar in our country.”

 

(A document is read out from Major Rexhep Çela showing the immoral acts committed by Balli Kombëtar against our wives and sisters throughout Albania.)

 

Prosecution: “And Bahri Omari says that he was against the participation of Albanian women in the war, because it is not permitted by Albanian customs. Those wives and sisters who had the misfortune to remain in their towns and villages were assaulted and treated in a barbarian way by the monsters of Balli Kombëtar. These were the virtuous deeds of Balli Kombëtar which Bahri Omari defends here. These are leaders of Balli Kombëtar.”

 

(The reading continues of documents showing the immorality and monstrosity of members of Balli Kombëtar who dishonoured Albanian wives and sisters, documents which were sent to the headquarters of Balli Kombëtar, signed by the commanders of this organisation.)

 

“These immoral deeds and other villainous acts, Mr. President, caused Balli Kombëtar to become disoriented and this is why we disassociated ourselves from it. This is why we joined the government saying that we were not from Balli Kombëtar.”
Prosecutor: “What the accused says, Comrade Judges, has baseless. They inspired that organisation. These are the men that chose immoral men and criminals as commanders for their armed bands, and all this with only one object: to fight against the National Liberation Front. In the National Liberation Front for its part, only patriots gathered, people ready to sacrifice themselves to fight the criminal gangs of Balli Kombëtar, all their thieves and most heinous elements in the country. Jani Dilo tells it plainly in his letters: “We know all the bad things that our soldiers and officers are doing, like killing and raping women, etc., but we cannot stop them. We must remain silent because we are afraid that they will otherwise leave and abandon us”. The commanders of Balli acted in accordance with orders given to them by these men: Mid’hat Frashëri, Ali Këlcyra, Bahri Omari and co. Wherever these men were to be found, looting and division reigned. Wherever they were absent, brotherhood, honour and union reigned.”
“All of this confirms his words, Mr. President, because I never accepted rapes, thievery and pillaging. The reason for the disintegration of Balli Kombëtar is exactly what the Prosecutor mentioned. But I will never accept the accusation that I inspired it. I was one of those who openly denounced all these deeds. As you know, Mr. President, I have a clean record and people know me and what I stood for.”

President: “Did the men of Balli Kombëtar get arms and ammunition from the Germans?”

“I know that Hysni Cakrani got arms from a German general.”

President: “Do you know, Bahri Omari, that a big operation was carried out in the winter, when Balli Kombëtar participated side by side with the occupiers against the National Liberation movement? And Balli Kombëtar had its own prisons in the towns.”

“Yes, and I protested about this to Mid’hat Frashëri.”

President: “But how is it, Bahri Omari, after all this collaboration of Balli Kombëtar with the occupier, as you yourself admit, because you say you protested; after the terror of February 4th, that on February 5th you joined the Quisling government as a representative of Balli Kombëtar? How do you explain this?”

“I told you, Mr. President, I only joined it when I was advised to do so by Mid’hat Frashëri, but not as a representative of Balli Kombëtar.”

 

(The President orders the minutes of an examination with Bahri Omari and Kolë Tromara to be read out, where Bahri Omari said he joined the government with Kolë Tromara and Koço Muka as representatives of Balli Kombëtar, but where Kolë Tromara insisted that he did not join the government as such.)

 

“I don’t deny having said that I was advised by Mid’hat Frashëri who told me that if I were called to join the government I should not to refuse. But I joined it as Bahri Omari and not as a representative of Balli Kombëtar.”

Enver Hoxha speaking, with Koçi Xoxe on the right, ca. 1946.


Enver Hoxha speaking, with Koçi Xoxe on the right, ca. 1946.



Enver Hoxha speaking,
with Koçi Xoxe on the right, ca. 1946.

President: “But how is it that Mid’hat Frashëri, President of Balli Kombëtar, advised you in this manner at a time when major events were taking place, when murder, burnings and lootings were taking place. Why did you not protest to Mid’hat Frashëri?”

“I had just returned from Gjirokastra when Mid’hat Frashëri came. I was ill in bed and I did not know that scandalous operations were going on.”

President: “Did Balli Kombëtar collaborate with the Germans in killing, burning and looting?”

“Yes, it did.”

President: “When did you hear about this?”

“I heard about it while from the government.”

President: “Bahri Omari, why are you afraid? Why don’t you tell us the truth?”

“This is the truth, Mr. President.”

Prosecutor: “At this time, the pamphlets of Balli were denigrating our army and riling the people against our movement. Listen, Bahri Omari, to what Xhelal Staravecka says in his pamphlets.”

 

(A pamphlet of Xhelal Staravecka is read out, in which he appeals to the people, stating that the foundations of the country were being ruined and that the baby was turning around in its mother’s womb because of the barbarians in the mountains.)

 

Prosecutor: “And the accused claims that he heard of this from the government, on February 7th. Alright, on February 10th or at the end of February, but what did he do?”

“We broke off ties with Balli.”

Prosecutor: “Bahri Omari, Comrade Judges, was obliged to remain at his post in order to defend Balli Kombëtar till the end. On the one hand, he states he was not a leader of it and on other hand he does not want Balli to be spoken ill of.”

“Balli fell into disrepute much earlier.”

Prosecutor: “I can show you documents proving the collaboration of Balli Kombëtar with the occupiers. Balli Kombëtar took power hand in hand with the occupiers in Rexhep Mitrovica’s government. All the pamphlets of the time urged the people against us. Here are some passages of these pamphlets: “Sleep, sleep, you martyrs, the day of vengeance has dawned. The day of final victory is at hand.”

 

(The Prosecutor continues to read from pamphlets against people who sheltered members of the National Liberation movement in their homes, saying that they would be shot in the streets. The pamphlets of Balli called for those in hospitals to be arrested because they were communists. Bahri Omari cannot escape from his responsibility. These pamphlets are dated 13 October 1943, that is, before the preparations for the terror of February 4th and later. A letter bearing the signature of Mid’hat Frashëri is read out, in which it is alleged that the communists had carried out two attempted assassinations, and that revenge would be taken.)

 

Prosecutor: “For Bahri Omari, Mid’hat Frashëri was a patriot, a shining star of nationalism. The people of Albania, however, know well that Mid’hat Frashëri, Bahri Omari and their likes are common criminals. I can prove it here with documents signed by Mid’hat Frashëri for various crimes, for the preparation of February 4th, etc. In October 1943, the headquarters of Balli issued a pamphlet encouraging such terrorist acts. On 11 February 1944, after seeing where the thing were heading, Mid’hat Frashëri sought once again to cover up the crimes he committed, and distributed a pamphlet asking for the names of the Ballists who were killed by us. He put the names in his pamphlets so as to expose our activity. The terror continued after February 4th. On February 28th Mid’hat Frashëri was in contact with Xhelal Staravecka and Kadri Cakrani. We have here a handwritten letter by Mid’hat Frashëri in which he gives orders to Kadri Cakrani and another letter in which he tells Xhelal Staravecka that he wants information about the arrest of an officer. In his own handwriting, Mid’hat Frashëri gives orders to the men who committed acts of terrors. No crime was committed anywhere without Balli Kombëtar knowing it. Balli Kombëtar was everywhere, responsible for terror, killing and looting. Who knew that Seit Matia was a member of Balli Kombëtar?”

 

(The Prosecutor shows the document.)

 

Prosecutor: “Here is a document of Balli Kombëtar, in which Xhafer Deva states that Seit Matia and Man Kukaleshi were commissars of Balli. There was no need to fear for the safety of the prisoners because they were in safe hands and nothing would happen.”

 

(Other documents are read out showing the unequivocal participation of Balli Kombëtar in acts of terror and its collaboration with the Gestapo.)

 

Prosecutor: “Finally, Ismail Golemi stated that in March 1944 he received orders to kill twenty people in Gjirokastra and burn their houses. February 4th was not the first dastardly deed of Balli Kombëtar. Since February 4th, they have been continuous. Tirana had its own February 4th, Gjirokastra had its, and so did Vlora. Hundreds and hundreds were killed on the orders of Balli Kombëtar. Hundreds and hundreds of mothers are without children, hundreds of wives are now widows and children became orphans. The hearts of so many people have suffered seeing their loved ones being massacred. Hundreds of parents have been shocked to learn that Balli Kombëtar and the Germans raped their daughters. Responsible for all of these massacres and assaults were Balli Kombëtar, Bahri Omari and the others with them. Bahri Omari was a leader of Balli and he was therefore sent where Balli needed him. When heavy fighting was going on in Gjirokastra, Bahri Omari was sent there to negotiate the agreement between Balli and the Germans. Three members of Balli, Bahri Omari, Kolë Tromara and Koço Muka, joined the government when the Germans wanted to prove to the world that Albania was an independent country. Bahri Omari joined the government as minister of foreign affairs on February 7th during the worst of the terror. Is this not true, Bahri Omari? Just to deceive the people and convince them that the Germans had guaranteed the independence of Albania.”

“I myself punished members of Balli Kombëtar for the deeds they committed, but you must not blame me for all of this.”

President: “What deeds do you mean? The terror? February 4th?”

“It may have been behind it all.”

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, we have proven here that Balli Kombëtar was in close collaboration with the occupiers, and committed acts of terror, but Bahri Omari does not admit this because he wants to distance himself from the crimes. If we continue with evidence, Bahri Omari will once again come out as being closely involved in Balli Kombëtar. Balli Kombëtar was the worst enemy of the National Liberation movement. Balli collaborated with the Germans, with Xhelal Staravecka, and it cannot be said that Bahri Omari was unaware of the massacres, torture and other crimes. We appealed to Bahri Omari to join our ranks. He remained faithful until the end to the occupiers, faithful also to Balli, because there was no way of effacing his criminal activity. He was purely and simply a traitor.

President: “Did you answer the call of National Liberation Front, Bahri Omari?”

“Mr. President, when the call was made, we responded by saying that we could not go up into the mountains as we were old men and our family situations did not permit such a thing, but we accepted the authority of the National Liberation movement.”

President: “Was Balli Kombëtar responsible for the terror of February 4th?”

“I said that it was committed by Xhafer Deva, Kadri Cakrani and Xhelal Staravecka.”

President: “Who was Kadri Cakrani?”

“A commander of Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “Was he not a member of the central committee of Balli Kombëtar?”

“Yes, he was.”

President: “Did Balli Kombëtar know that Kadri Cakrani took part in the terror of February 4th?”

“Yes, it did.”

President: “What did it do? Did it take any steps?”

“No, it did not. And this is why all the charges should be directed against Balli Kombëtar.”

President: “Who in Balli Kombëtar do you think is responsible?”

“I would accuse Mid’hat Frashëri, if the accusations are true that the Prosecution made against him.”

President: “That is, you accuse Mid’hat Frashëri. Whom else of the leaders of Balli would you accuse?”

“All those who were indicted and accepted the charges.”

President: “Were orders not given to the armed bands of Balli to go to Gjirokastra, Vlora and other places to burn down houses? Did you not hear Ismail Golemi speaking of the orders received to burn and loot in Gjirokastra?”

“If Ismail Golemi received such an order, this would be clear enough evidence of the crimes Balli Kombëtar committed.”

Prosecutor: “Bahri Omari, Comrade Judges, is still pursuing the same line and always replies with an ‘if’. Why doesn’t he answer directly and openly? Because Bahri Omari regards Balli Kombëtar as a patriotic organisation. Bahri Omari is well aware of all of the activities of this organisation, but he does not want to conemn it here before the People’s Court. He carries on defending it, indirectly, even now that the leaders of Balli Kombëtar are here on the bench of the accused and that the main leaders are in the hands of the allies ready to be handed over to us.”

“I said, Mr. President, if the armed bands of Balli Kombëtar did these things and the committee did not protest, the responsibility falls upon Balli.”

President: “Was Balli Kombëtar then a treacherous organisation, or not?”

“The logical conclusion, Mr. President, would be that it was, if it accepted to collaborate with the occupiers and tolerated the criminal activities of its armed bands.”

President: “How did you come to know Seit Matia, Bahri Omari?”

“I met him for the first time at the German military hospital.”

President: “Did you meet everybody in the hospital, Bahri Omari? Why was he there? Why was he not sent to the civil hospital?”

“Because they had better surgeons.”

President: “Ha, ha, for this purpose!”

President: “Why did Balli Kombëtar join Mitrovica’s government?”

“I was ill in bed. Mid’hat Frashëri came around and told me to join Mitrovica’s government. I thought he was joking and I refused. The Rexhep Mitrovica then came around once again, the second time with Kolë Tromara, and begged me to accept in view of the chaotic situation. At that time, Mr. President, the situation was so delicate that no one had the courage to take over the office of prime minister. By accepting, I made a sacrifice in the interests of the people.”

President: “Why so?”

“No one wanted to become a minister, they were all afraid.”

Prosecutor: “Because the bloodbath of February 4th was still fresh in peoples’ memories?”

“We therefore went to stop Xhafer Deva who was behaving very badly. I believe that we stopped things from getting worse. A lot of those who were interned in Vlora were going to be sent to Germany. We brought them back on the road to Elbasan. Xhafer Deva was extremely close to the Germans so we tried as much as possible to improve the situation and avoid danger. Xhafer Deva wanted to become prime minister.”

President: “You were in the cabinet of Rexhep Mitrovica and even tolerated the next waves of arrests. Thousands were being sent to the German mines from Kosovo, thousands were being mobilized for the Germans in the SS.”

“We were against such things, Mr. President.”

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, why is Bahri Omari going on from one thing to another? Why does he tell us that he joined the government in order to stop Xhafer Deva? Xhafer Deva was the very epitome of Balli Kombëtar. There were hundreds of Xhafer Devas. What is Bahri Omari trying to tell us? Why doesn’t he tell us the real reason for his participation in that government, as a delegate of Balli Kombëtar? Why does he not say that he joined it to strengthen the activities of Balli and, with the help of the Germans, cooperate with foreign reactionaries?”

Mr. President, “I joined the government in the interests of the nation. Our administration did great service to the country because, if the Germans had had free hand, think of the damage they would had done. Our government did not allow the inflation of the Albanian franc to get out of control. It was found out that our currency was being smuggled into Greece because it had value. Then, when we saw that no one was listening to us, we resigned.”

Prosecutor: “But they left someone behind them, Comrade Judges, they left Koço Muka.”

President: “Did the second operation, the German offensive, not begin during the time you were in the government, Bahri Omari?”

“We were in government when the second operation began. We protested about this in the Supreme Council, and in the end we resigned. After we left, Koço Muka remained in the other cabinet which the Prosecutor mentioned. Why Koço Muka remained is for him to explain. I do not know the reason.”

President: “When did you resign, Bahri Omari? A month after the start of the second operation? This contradicts with what you said about stopping the Germans from murdering and destroying. Otherwise you would have resigned on the first day that operations began. Instead you supported the Germans to get equipment to fight us. In the end you were in cahoots with them when the port of Durrës was blown up.”

“The Germans, Mr. President, took only 34,000,000 francs, drawing 7-8 million a month, when they asked for 30 million a month. We had an agreement that for this money they would procure merchandise and cars for us. Later they brought us some cars but they then took them back. We also agreed that they would bring us an amount of gold and they did bring it. As for the port of Durrës, they blew it up without our knowledge. They said that the government of the Reich would pay compensation for the damage. Seeing what the Germans were doing, we prayed to God that the Allies would arrive as soon as possible.”

 

(The President orders the agreement between Bahri Omari’s government and the Germans on the destruction of the port of Durrës to be read out.)

 

“In this letter, we charged a commission with calculating the damage done, because the German command had promised compensation, as I said.”

Prosecutor: “They did not protest about the destruction of the port of Durrës so that the Allies would not have a bridgehead to land and, in addition, they thought that by so doing, they would delay our entrance into Tirana. What could they do then? Where could these collaborationists escape?”

“We were always for the victory of the National Liberation movement, Mr. President.”

Prosecutor: “This is indeed very interesting, Comrade Judges. These people went off to collaborate with the occupiers and at the same time, they were hoping for the victory of those who were combating the occupiers. How can you explain this?”

“As I have said, Mr. President, we prayed for the victory of National Liberation movement because they were working for the good of the country.”

President: “Did the Kosovo Regiment conduct operations in Vlora and were you then ministers?”

“When we took power in the government, we dissolved the Kosovo Regiment, although for some time it was still conducting operations in Vlora.”

A Member: “The Kosovo Regiment was broken up by the partisans and not by you. Dod Nikolla was furious.”

“It is true that the Kosovo Regiment was broken up in Vlora by the partisans. More than a hundred and fifty were killed. I know this from Dod Nikolla who went berserk. I met him at the hospital.”

President: “You met all of them at the hospital. Tell us, was Balli in relations with Legality?”

“I heard, in the end, that an agreement was reached in Preza between Balli Kombëtar and Legality. Bazi i Canës initially refused, but later accepted.”

President: “Did you know that Mid’hat Frashëri ordered the troops of Balli Kombëtar to salute in the Zogist way?”

“No, I did not know that.”

President: “We even have that order and can show it to you. Did Ali Këlcyra say in Gjirokastra: ‘If we continue doing as we are now, even the Ghegs will abandon us. We must unite with the Zogists to fight this anarchy’?”

“Yes, Mr. President; I remember that the Prosecutor, Bedri Spahiu, replied that Ali Këlcyra, by so saying, wanted to divide the people in war.”

President: “Against whom was this union, Bahri Omari?”

“Undoubtedly against the National Liberation movement.”

President: “But did this come about, Bahri Omari? You, as major politicians who were abroad for more than twenty years as anti-Zogists, how could you agree to join the Zogists so quickly? Earlier, you had spoken out against the Greeks and Serbs and later against the Ghegs and Tosks. Now we find you united with the Bajraktars. What do you say about this?”

“I know that many Bajraktars were in touch with Mid’hat Frashëri, and he told me two or three times that Abas Kupi had not responded. But I did not collaborate with the Zogists, Mr. President.”

 

(The President orders an order from Mid’hat Frashëri to be read out for the troops to salute as before April 7th with their hands on their hearts.)

 

“This is the first time I have heard about this.”

President: “Did you also take the initiative for a treaty between Albania and Greece?”

“It is true, Mr. President, that preliminary discussions were held with some Greek parties, but an agreement was not concluded. I had received letters from Salonica telling me that the parties in question were disposed to come to an agreement so, as minister for foreign affairs, I charged Xhavit Leskoviku. I discussed the matter with Mid’hat Frashëri at a dinner I gave at my house. Present were also Koço Muka, Hasan Dosti and Kolë Tromara.”

 

(The President orders a letter from Xhavit Leskoviku addressed to Bahri Omari to be read out telling Omari to avoid all antagonism and misunderstandings, otherwise union could not be achieved. This letter also provides information about relations between the Greek and Albanian nationalists and explains where the discussions stood between the Albanians and the Greeks. Xhavit Leskoviku was asked and stated that he had dispatched the letter from Salonica.)

 

President: “Tell us here, did Xhavit Leskoviku address this letter to you as minister or as a member of Balli Kombëtar? Was this treaty an act of Balli Kombëtar or of the government?”

“This letter was sent to me as a member of the government. In this letter, he criticizes Mid’hat Frashëri for having sent the letter openly, and not confidentially. The initiative was taken by the Greek parties and not by me. The proposal was brought to me by Dhimitër Fallo.”

Prosecutor: “We have evidence here from Jani Dilo that you wished to collaborate with Greek reactionary organisations. Did you want them to fight with you?

“No.”

Prosecutor: “No, because Balli did not want to fight. Well, why was Xhavit Leskoviku acting on his own? Was this treaty supposed to be against the Germans?”

“No. But we were afraid of the Germans. They would not allow us to open consulates in Athens, Belgrade and elsewhere.”

A Member: “Was this letter republished in pamphlets. Did it circulate here in Tirana? Why didn’t the Germans stop you when they saw that you were working against their interests?”

“Maybe they did not notice.”

President: “Who sent you to Salonica, Xhavit Leskoviku?”

Xhavit Leskoviku: “The minister of foreign affairs, Bahri Omari?”

President: “With which leaders did you come into contact in Salonica?”

Xhavit Leskoviku: “With the President of the Liberal Party.”

President: “Did these parties, with whom you spoke, fight the Germans?”

Xhavit Leskoviku: “No, they didn’t.”

Prosecutor: “Comrade Judges, this was not an agreement between the Albanian and Greek governments, but between the Balli Kombëtar of Albania and the Balli Kombëtar of Greece. And the conditions of the agreement were not stipulated by Bahri Omari, but by Mid’hat Frashëri. And the person who bore the letter was Dhimitër Fallo, a well-known agent of the fascists. Bahri Omari has his back against the wall, faced as he is with the real facts. He held a meeting at his house with the leaders of Balli Kombëtar where the course of action was decided. Bahri Omari, must tell the whole people of his treasonous doings and those of Balli Kombëtar.”

 

 (The President orders the reading of an order given for a passport, written in French by Bahri Omari, for Dhimitër Fallo who was sent on this mission in Greece.)

 

President: “What it was the mission of Dhimitër Fallo for whom you issued a passport?”

“I do not know.”

 

(The President orders the reading of a letter addressed to Dhimitër Fallo from Mid’hat Frashëri, with the stipulations of the agreement to be made with the reactionary Greek parties, inter alia, putting the Albanian army at the disposal of the Greek army.)

 

“I do not know anything about this, Mr. President. I only issued a passport to Dhimitër Fallo as I would have done to anyone else.”

President: “Bahri Omari, do not play with words. It is your signature.”

“I do not deny my signature.”

President: “Alright, but annexed to Dhimitër Fallo’s passport are also the instructions of Mid’hat Frashëri.”

“How do I know what Dhimitër Fallo took with him, Mr. President. As for the letter given to Dhimitër Fallo by Mid’hat Frashëri, I had no knowledge of it, and it was not agreed with the government.”

 

(A declaration by Zef Lashova is read out, in which it is alleged that Albanian reactionaries had wished to collaborate with Greek reactionaries one year earlier. Ismail Haki Tatzati took part in meetings with the Greek forces of Zervas, and Pandeli Papalilo was also involved.)

 

“As I said, the discussions held with the Greek parties were preliminary, and in the end nothing was concluded.”

 

Prosecutor: “The matter is clear enough, Comrade Judges. The parties which were not fighting the Germans were being united with parties in Greece that were not fighting the Germans. This means that all those who were collaborating with the occupiers here, were uniting with those collaborating with the occupiers in Greece. And why so? To fight against the National Liberation movement in Greece and here. Balli Kombëtar had been responsible since 1939 for the rift between our people and the people of Greece. With these acts, the organisation was trying to reach a defensive and offensive agreement with foreign reactionaries and involve the Command of the Albanian Army, as Mid’hat Frashëri writes himself. It has been proven, Comrade Judges, with full facts, why the Albanian people rejected Balli Kombëtar. Balli was in a quandary, It knew it was in danger and united with Legality and Marka Gjoni, but it still understood that it could not escape and so went beyond our frontiers and allied itself with treacherous Greek forces, with parties who were against the freedom of the people. And it is clear that those who collaborated with the Italians and Germans here were now seeking to unite with the Greek reactionary forces that were collaborating with the Italians and Germans. But, Comrade Judges, there is more. They denounced the independence of Albania and supported the division of Albania into small states. Is it a wonder that these people would also agree on the division of Albania? It is in fact quite easy to understand that such an organisation would do such a thing. With whom did they want to unite? With the Greek chauvinists, with the supporters of the Megali Idea [Great Idea]. You can see this in the letter of Xhavit Leskoviku, where they appealed to Moslem and Catholic representatives, because they regarded the Orthodox as their own people. We can now see how the people of Balli Kombëtar took to the road of treason, that of compromise. That road had been pointed out to Bahri Omari by the men of the National Liberation movement who went to his house. They explained to him that the road he on was the road of treason, but Bahri Omari, Comrade Judges, did not obey and instead continued down this road to the very end.”

President: “Did you have relations with Bulgarian reactionaries?”

“No, Mr. President.”

Prosecutor: We have other facts here showing the relations of Bahri Omari and Balli Kombëtar with Bulgarian reactionaries, while our armed bands were busy combating this reaction.”

 

(The Prosecutor reads out a letter from the general headquarters of the National Defence, instructing frontier soldiers to help and support any Bulgarian soldiers who were being persecuted by the communists.)

 

Prosecutor: “There is still more, Comrade Judges. Another organisation, the ‘Friends of Croatia,’ was created on the initiative of the ministry of foreign affairs. Why was this society created?”

“It was a cultural society.”

Prosecutor: “This is not true, Comrade Judges. The ‘Friends of Croatia’ were collaborators of the Germans and remained with Germany to the end. The organisation was aimed against our movement, but the people destroyed it and brought its members to justice to give account.”

 

(Upon the request of the defence lawyer, the accused Bahri Omari is given leave to speak.)

 

“Some men of the National Liberation movement kept their archives and money in my house where Enver Hoxha had left them with his sister, my wife. This went on since 1942, and when I was minister, leaders and leading figures of the movement came to my house. I protested against the blowing up of the port of Durrës by the Germans. As this proof of my protest is not in the court files but in the archives of the ministry of foreign affairs, I would ask the Court to find this document.”

 

(Here ends the hearing of Bahri Omari.)

 

 

[extract from: Robert Elsie (ed.), The Albanian Treason Trial (forthcoming)]

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