Tirana attack prompts comments from editor, businessman

Our news alert on Wednesday detailing a vicious attack on Albanian editor Mero Baze elicited e-mail comments from both victim and a businessman accused in the attack. Baze said he is recovering but is experiencing head pain. He also echoed reported witness statements that identified Rezart Taci, a principal in local oil companies, as being involved in the attack. Taci, who responded to us through one of his companies, denied involvement in the assault.

Citing witness accounts, local press reports said Taci and several of his bodyguards beat Baze, editor of the daily Tema and host of the “Faktor Plus” television show, into unconsciousness at a bar in downtown Tirana on Monday night. Baze had recently produced a series of reports accusing the businessman of tax evasion and criticizing authorities for inaction. Earlier Monday evening, the journalist had raised the issue on his television program.

Baze, who was hospitalized overnight following the attack, told CPJ he is under medication and his condition will be monitored for two weeks. He said doctors do not expect lasting damage. Recalling the attack, Baze said that the businessman “came straight to the table where I was sitting with my two colleges. He started swearing and offending me and also hitting me. I tried to step back and protect myself and I noticed that I was surrounded by his bodyguards. I passed out after a few minutes of hitting and when I became conscious again they had left.”

In an e-mail sent from a Taci Oil International account, Taci said: “I totally deny the allegations that I participated in the brutalities that have caused severe injuries to Mr. Baze. I not only deny my involvement, but I also condemn violence that so often mars our modern society.” He also denied allegations of tax evasion and said they were meant to destabilize his business. He pledged to “put the record straight.”

Albanian authorities condemned the attack, and police reportedly detained two men. We hope that Taci and others cooperate with the official investigation, and that authorities bring the perpetrators to justice.

UPDATE: Shortly after we posted this item, Reuters reported that a Tirana court ordered the arrest of Taci.