Investigim.al journalists have stimulated the purchase of a brass knuckle for 1 thousand lek on the “Medrese” market place in Tirana. Knives and brass knuckles can be found in Tirana’s streets, although, the law provides to “5 years of imprisonment” for this offense. This is the story of a young man, who, was convicted to “4 years in prison” for buying a knuckle duster at the flea market. Attorneys: the punishment given for persons caught for possessing cold weapons should be revised.
The cold weapons are freely sold on the streets of the capital city. Knives of different sizes and brass knuckles can be purchased at a reasonable price on the streets, or in the two major outdoor markets in the capital city the “Medrese” and “Çam” markets. Many young people buy these offensive weapons for self-defense, although, in a number of cases they have been used in peer fights which have ended up with people seriously injured. The easiness of finding and buying such weapons in Tirana has leaded many young people to possess them.. Tirana’s markets have hardly any control on the sale of cold weapons sell, although the merchants show some carefulness because of fear of police. Investigim.al journalists went to the Medrese market and impersonated buying a knife and a brass knuckle, each costing one for one thousand lek. The journalist picked a dealer at the “Medrese” market, who was describing with details these kinds of purchases. The full conversation between the journalist and the dealer in the “Medrese” market is found below:
The journalist: Do you sell brass knuckles?
The trader: No… Why do you need them, because maybe I can help you?
The journalist: I wanted to hold one in my car, for any possible case
The trader: (After ensures that the journalist is unaccompanied) Yes you can come in, I might have something
The journalist: (After looking at a brass knuckle) how much does it cost?
The trader: 10 thousand lek, but be careful do not bring them up to the view
The journalist: What are you afraid of?
The trader: We are afraid to sell knives and brass knuckles on the “Medrese” market, because the police made numerous checks and have taken the vendors and their merchandise to the police station, however with some caution we continue to sell. We have encountered problems especially after certain incidents have occurred in schools among young people, and since then we sell with caution. We keep some small sized knives on the counter, whereas, we don’t display at all the knuckles, because, they can take you at the police station. When the young men come to buy, we check if they have not been put by any police officer, and we often provoke them, when we realize that they have come just to buy a weapon just to hold it in the car, than we make the sell. Although there is demand, selling remains a problem, because we cannot display the products, and the sale is done by asking, about the dealers who sell such products. Previously, there used to be some vendors placed outside the marketplaces, who were selling without any problem, but apparently, this is not the case anymore.
The journalist: From where do you get these products?
The trader: These products come from China to Tirana, and there are very few places that sell in wholesale, as there is not allowed, even more now with the frequent police checks, there are only one or two retail points of sale.
The journalist: What about the prices?
The trader: Prices vary on the size of the knives and of the brass duster. For knuckles the price varies from 10 thousand to 15 thousand lek depending on the wear of the handle .While the knives exceeding three fingers of the hand in length range from 8 thousand to 20 thousand lek. However, the sale of these products is continuing, there are limited retail points of sale that conduct this activity with caution.
One of the weapons purchased in the market
The court sentenced to “4 years in prison” a 21 year old man, who was caught possessing a brass knuckle in a bar- cafe, in Tirana, which, he had bought near the “Medrese” market.”At 1:30 pm dated 2.10.2013, the “Shqiponja 2” patrol car caught in the act the defendant Fatmir Nazifi, in “4 Dëshmorët street”, in “Tripet bar”, as he possessed a brass knuckle with four fingers, in black color. The defendant Fatmir Nazifi was accompanied to the police station no.4, in Tirana, and declared that he had purchased the knuckle two weeks ago, on the road to “Medrese” market, and was carrying it for self-defense.
According to the act of the technical expertise no.326, dated 02.10.2013 was shown that, the knuckle of black metal, in steel, without a blade, meets the technical requirements of cold weapons”. The young man was sentenced to “4 years in prison” but received a third of the penalty, because he accepted the summary trial application, eventually being sentenced to“2 years and 8 months in prison”. Although, the 21 year old man, had no prior criminal record, there was not applied any alternative punishment to his case, neither in the beginning when he was arrested, nor when he was sentenced, by spending 2 years and 8 months in prison, for articles that are freely sold in wholesale and retail market places.
The case of the 21 year old, who, was convicted for illegal possession of cold weapons is not the only one. Every day the court gives sentences for such an offence. The severity in punishment came as a result of some legal changes occurred in May of the last year, which apart from firearms included also the cold weapons. As provided in the Article 279 of the Criminal Code “Production, possession, purchase or sale of cold weapons without a permission from the relevant authorities, such as swords, bayonets, knives and other tools specifically produced and intended for assaulting people or for self defense, are liable to be punished by fine or up to “3 years of imprisonment” According to this code ”Possession, purchase or sale of such weapons in vehicles or in public areas such as: swords, bayonets, knives and other tools produced and intended for assaulting persons or for self defense without permission from relevant authorities, shall be convicted with “3 to 8 years of imprisonment’.
Legislative changes for stricter measures in the Criminal Code are not embraced by all the justice actors, who, every day report court sentences, although often not for the fault of the latter. Representatives of the judiciary blame the lawmakers, while accusing the courts about the punitive measures, such as, by letting the offenders in prison, or giving the maximal sentence to “4 years of imprisonment”. “The punishment for this offense is severe and I have often highlighted this fact” declares for investigim.al the head of Appellate Court Prosecutor, Shkëlqim Hajdari, following with an ironic phrase: “What kind of entity gives permission for being equipped with knives, swords, axes or knuckles”?
The head of Prosecutor’s Association, Shkëlqim Hajdari
Hajdari explains the reasons why he is against the law, which provides severe punishment, while, adding that law provisions should be revised.”A person buys freely a knife at the market for the domestic use, or a brass knuckle, an ax or something else which is considered by the law a cold weapon. So, someone needs to buy a knife and on his way home, he is arrested for “illegal possession of cold weapons”. I ask once again who gives the permission to be equipped with the so-called weapons. So, I am saying that the case-hardened law provisions are putting people in prison for weapons which are sold freely in the marketplaces” states Hajdari. When asked how to solve this situation, Shkëlqim Hajdari says that the law provision need to be corrected first, while prosecutors and appellate court judges need to be more careful in assigning measures or penalties for persons caught with such weapons.
The same opinion with the Head of the Appellate Court Prosecutor in Tirana is shared by some lawyers, about the review of the case- hardened legal provision changes made in May 2013. The lawyer Detar Hysi contacted by investigim.al says that the extreme measures for this offense do not reflect the reality. “Imprisonment measures are very serious, especially when there are more applicable alternative measures to be taken into account. In relation to the people getting caught because they possess brass knuckles or knives, “what else can I say when you can find them easily being traded in the marketplaces?” claims Hysi.
Lawyer SajmirVisha shares the same attitude. He has had several client cases of being arrested because of knuckles or baseball bats possession, which, have ended up in prison. “Can one be sentenced just for a knuckle or baseballs bat, which, can be bought to the “Çam or Medrese” marketplaces? How normal is this? says lawyer Vishaj, at the same time the Head of the Penal Lawyers Association.
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