The fifth part
Memorie.al publishes some of the unknown stories of the former prime minister during the life of communist Albania, Mehmet Shehu, told by the former bodyguard and commander of his escort group, Ali Çeno, regarding his boss’s relations with Enver Hoxha and some of the most talked about events that continue to be shrouded in mystery even today after four decades since his elimination, such as those of the evening of December 17, 1981, when Ali Çeno accompanied his boss home after the meeting of the Politburo, where he was severely criticized by Enver and most of its members and the morning events of that night, when the Albanian Prime Minister was found lifeless in his bedroom!
Rare testimonies of the former bodyguard of the Albanian Prime Minister, starting from the events of 1974, when Enver tried to bring Mehmet into conflict with Beqir Balluku and other former generals who were shot, Enver’s contradictions with Mehmet since 1976, which brought a cooling between them and also of Fiqret and Nexhmija, so much so that the holidays did not make those two families together as they had always done, (the conflict which was reflected in the two groups of escorts that were headed by Sulo Gradeci and Ali Çeno), fierce debates of the two highest leaders of communist Albania, in the spring of 1981, when demonstrations began in Kosovo, the events of autumn 1981 after the engagement of Mehmet’s second son, with “The girl with a bad biography”, where Enver and Nexhmija went to congratulate and why they took out the photographer of the prime minister’s family, the debates about the break-up of that engagement after Enver ordered Mehmeti to return urgently from Korça… ?!
The meeting of the Politburo on the afternoon of December 17, 1981, and the special orders given by Prime Minister Shehu to his bodyguard, for the service group that was guarding the villa that night, who and why informed Çeno to go there that night on duty, which had never happened before… ?! How Ali learned on the morning of December 18 what had happened to his boss, what Vladimir, the eldest son of the Shehu family, told him before he entered the prime minister’s bedroom, Ali’s telephone conversation with Ramiz Ali and his response, the role of Kadri Hazbiu in that event, the inhuman tortures that the investigator Sokol Koleka inflicted on Ali during the investigation process and what he asked him to say about Enver Hoxha, the version that Çeno gives, about the way, the mechanism and the people who took part in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shehu, and why does he accuse Ramiz Alia, as the executor of that plan that was previously conceived by Enver Hoxha ?!
“The meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the ALP, ended there around 20.00 in the evening and immediately after that, Mehmeti, very nervous as rarely ever, hurried into the studio of his house and threw the bag at the door , which fell to the floor. I immediately sat down to pick him up to put him in the place where he usually kept him, but he said to me: ‘Leave Ali damn, leave…’! Seeing him in that very shocked state, to soothe him somewhat and calm him down, I said to him: ‘Whenever we are criticized, we should not do so’. After that, he turned to me and said: ‘Why did you take Ali, do you compare yourself to me…?! Did you not hear what the little ones were doing at the meeting, like a parro ?! ‘?! (He was talking about the meeting of the Politburo that had just ended, where almost all its members, instigated by Enver Hoxha, severely attacked him with various accusations). After a while, around 8:45 pm, from the work studio where he was alone and I at her door in the corridor, Mehmeti called Enver and said: “Comrade Enver, can I just come for five minutes to copy some things?” I did not hear what Enver answered on the other side of the receiver, but I learned that the next day from Fiqret. Before I left him, to go to my house, Mehmeti addressed me: ‘Ali, beware of the service, lest evil come from where it awaits’. I had a clear idea of why he was speaking, and before I left, I shared the assignment with the service group, left for home, only to return after a phone call from one of the escort group members, and I slept in the service room. The next morning, after I pulled out the Benz and got it ready to take the boss to the Bureau meeting, I heard screams from the second floor of the villa. Then, Vladimir, the eldest son of the family, came out and asked me and the doctor (Llesh Rroku) to go upstairs quickly. Ladi pointed her finger from the bedroom and, trembling, said to me: ‘Ali, go and see my father!’! I immediately got in there and for the moment, I remembered that he had fainted. I immediately measured his pulse and saw that he was finished… ”!
This is how Ali Çeno, the bodyguard and former commander of the group accompanying the communist prime minister of Albania, Mehmet Shehu, and one of his most trusted men, remembered on the night of December 17-18, 1981, when he met and accompanied the chief. on his way home, after the meeting of the Politburo, where Mehmeti was called to account, regarding the engagement of his second son, Skënder…! After that, Ali was silent for a moment and his eyes almost filled with tears. “Here is how my flesh shrinks…”, he told us, as he remembered his former boss, the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the Albanian state, whom he served faithfully for ten years and for the first time showed us all the behind the scenes that led to the fatal night of December 18, 1981, when the Albanian Prime Minister, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for 27 years, was found dead in the bedroom of his villa, at the entrance of “Bllok” , just a few steps away from the building of the Central Committee of the ALP and the great palace of Enver Hoxha, whose shadow seemed to cover it every sunset…!
As well as when the contradictions between Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu first arose, who was the minister who testified about the fierce conflict between them in 1954, when after the closure at home guarded by his loyal former partisans from Mallakastra of the Brigade First Attacker, Mehmeti, got ready to go up the mountain ?! What accusations had been made against Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu that day on December 18, 1981, at a meeting of the Politburo and what he had talked about with the son of former Minister King Zog during a visit he had made as Prime Minister to the town of Cërrikut ?! Why did Mehmeti ask for a meeting with Enver Hoxha that evening, a few hours before the mysterious event and what was the answer he received from him?! Ever since the contradictions and big rift between them had started, which led to the irreparable conflict of that fatal night at that end of December, and was it related to the heated debate that had taken place between them in front of the Party House as they left the building of the Central Committee of the ALP in March 1981, when the demonstrations had started in Kosovo and Mehmet Shehu had asked Enver to take the tanks to the border with Yugoslavia?
What were Mehmet’s relations with Ramiz Alia and why did they break up just a few days after the ceremony performed by the two families Shehu and Alia, in the villa of Dajti Mountain ?! What had Enver Hoxha plotted, when together with Nexhmija, they went to visit the Shehu family, to wish the engagement of the son, Skënder, with the daughter of the Turdiu family and why they took out the photographer of the Shehu family (Dashamir Rrapin), by do not let him take your pictures? Why did Enver urgently call Mehmet from the meeting in Korça in October 1981 and what did he ask of him in his house, which Mehmet categorically opposed in the fierce quarrel that broke out between them?! Why on the evening of December 18, Mehmeti ordered the commander of his guards, Ali Chenon, to: be careful, that danger could come to you from where they were waiting?! What did he mean by that message and why was Ali Cheno called that night to go to sleep there, which he had never done before during the entire period of nearly 10 years he served in that position?!
Why did Ali Cheno insist, saying that: his boss had not killed himself, but had been killed by another man, who entered the night through the front door of the villa, collaborating with one of the officers of the internal service?! How did Ramiz Alia react when Ali informed him of what had happened to his boss? What was in the glass that Ali saw on Mehmet’s bedside table and why did it disappear immediately, after a group of forensic experts entered to inspect the scene?! Was Kadri Hazbiu implicated in that event, what was his position on the investigator and what did Kadriu say in the trial about Mehmet Shehu and the trial panel? What did the investigator Sokol Spiro Koleka asks Ali Çeno during the investigation process and why did he have to admit that: his boss Mehmeti had charged him (Ali) to kill Enver Hoxha with the assassinations?!
About these mysteries where most of them are unknown and previously unpublished, as well as many other unknown events and facts related to the longest-serving former Prime Minister of the Albanian state, Mehmet Shehu, as well as relations and reports with Enver Hoxha, are made public by the testimonies narrated exclusively by Ali Çeno, former bodyguard and commander of his escort group, which Memorie.al publishes for the first time for its readers in several issues of the dossier section.
Continued from the previous issue
Mr. Ali, after the event of December 18, 1981, when your boss, Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu, was found dead in his bedroom, what happened to you?
After that event, I was kept in solitary confinement for ten days, ostensibly available, and then I was called to the ministry, where I was informed that I had been assigned to go to Gostima, Elbasan, as the company commander in one of the military units located there.
Did you accept the task assigned to you?
I had no desire to go there and asked them that ‘there was no place here near Tirana’, but they told me that was what the Party had decided. This was a template expression, which was often used at the time and could not be easily contradicted. So I was forced to go where I was assigned, in Gostima, Elbasan, as the company commander.
How long did you stay in that position in Gostima, Elbasan?
I stayed there for about three months, until the day I was arrested.
Before we talk about your arrest, can you tell us how you were treated during those three months In a word, were you followed and monitored by the State Security
During all that period of time that I stayed in Gostima of Elbasan, I was constantly under the strict control of the State Security people, who followed me in every step I took and did not leave me for a moment. Some of those people who followed me, I knew as faces, as I had seen them during the time I had served in Tirana with former Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu. Security people followed me and monitored me wherever I went on the train, on the bus, or in the city of Elbasan, whenever I went out. “My surveillance was very open, and even the people of my command had told me with their mouths that they had orders to follow me wherever I moved, not only when I came to Tirana, but also when I went to Cërrik or Elbasan”.
How do you remember your arrest?
I was arrested while I was eating bread. Someone who was there in the canteen said to me, ‘Do you go out a little?’ Dozens of special police forces had come to arrest me, as well as a group of investigators from the Special Investigation of Tirana, as if Hamit Matjani was being arrested. After my arrest, the State Security, after confiscating all my belongings (my apartment was given to the Deputy Minister of Interior) deported my wife and two small children to the village of Kotovjat in Gramsh, where they had only two blankets with you. There they treated them in the most inhuman way, leaving them to dwell in a horse stable. They did the same with my brothers, removing them from the places where they used to work.
Where were you taken after the arrest?
After I was arrested, I was immediately sent with a ‘Gaz’ to the cells of the Elbasan Branch of Internal Affairs. There, after being chained upside down and with my hands behind my back, they put a helmet on my head. The cell where I was admitted was lined with planks, and there was nothing but four walls. Then they brought two old blankets, which they hung on a nail in the wall, and told me that I could cover myself with them. When I told them how I could cover myself with my hands tied behind my back, they said, ‘Do as you please.’
Apart from you, who else was arrested at that time in the so-called “Mehmet Shehu hostile group”?
While I was being held in custody in the Internal Branch of Elbasan, in Tirana, the wife of former Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu and her two sons were arrested and held in isolation in ‘Ward 313’ (Prison on Jordan Misja Street). Skënder and Bashkimi, as well as with some former ministers and other persons considered as Mehmet’s closest collaborators, such as: Minister of National Defense Kadri Hazbiu, Minister of Internal Affairs Feçor Shehu, Minister of Health Llambi Ziçishti, Minister of Of Foreign Affairs, Nesti Nase, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Mihallaq Ziçishti, Chief of Leadership Security, Llambi Peçini, Mehmet’s former companion, Gani Godra, barber of the hotel “Dajti” Xhavit Ahmetaga, etc.
How long have you been in that condition in that cell?
So chained upside down, I stayed for three months.
After you were put in that cell, after how long and who communicated the charge to you why you were arrested?
The accusation was communicated to me from the first day I was put in the cell, by the investigator Sokol Spiro Koleka, who was appointed by the Special Investigator of Tirana to conduct the investigation process against me.
After the communication of the accusation, what did the investigator Sokol Koleka ask you about?
From the beginning, when he interrogated me, Sokol Koleka told me: ‘You will accept everything we say, because they are in the interest of the Party’.
Can you tell us specifically what investigator Koleka told you about?
Sokol Koleka used to tell me many things, but the most important ones that I remember were these: “What conversations did you hear from Mehmet Shehu about Fultz? You should know that Mehmet Shehu and Fultz needed each other a lot. Did Mehmeti meet Tito on the steamer ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and what did they talk about with each other? Do you know that Mehmet Shehu had a very close person, Kadri Hazbi, and do you know what instructions Mehmet had given him regarding the plot they had prepared? Do you know that Kadriu and Mehmeti would shoot down the plane with which Comrade Enver Hoxha and other Party leaders were traveling when they were going to Moscow? Tell us why Mehmet Shehu ordered the cane with a cartridge from the master of the Gramsh factory, which he then brought with transfer to Tirana. You knew and were aware that Xhevdet Mustafa’s gang would come here and you would act together with them according to the instructions given to you by Mehmet Shehu. Tell us, because you know that Kadri Hazbiu was the leader of your group and until your group failed to kill the First Secretary of the Central Committee, Enver Hoxha, Kadri Hazbiu went to Mehmet’s villa on the night of the 17th, at dawn “December 18, and told him to kill himself, that you were discovered.”
But after what the investigator Sokol Koleka told you, what did the one you had to accept insist on the most?
Among the main accusations he told me that I should accept were these: “Accept that by order of Mehmet Shehu, you wanted to assassinate the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party (Enver Hoxha) and you would overthrow the popular power. Admit that you were Mehmet Shehu’s liaison with foreign agencies and that you often went abroad sent by Mehmet to contact these agencies. Admit that you were a member of Xhevdet Mustafa’s gang in the plot you had organized to assassinate the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party (Enver Hoxha). Admit that you were the liaison of the enemy and polygenesis Mehmet Shehu with foreign agencies. Admit that on the night of Mehmet’s murder, you were not on duty and went there on the orders of Kadri Hazbi, as you were also one of the members of the conspiracy “. These were some of the accusations that asked me to accept, but the most important thing that the investigator insisted on was for me to admit that Kadri Hazbiu had gone to his villa that night that Mehmet Shehu had killed himself. This was the main accusation made and Sokol Koleka told me that I had to accept it at all costs, as it was in the interest of the Party. But I did not accept any of the accusations made against me and I told them that ‘I cannot accept that, when in fact Kadri Hazbiu did not come to Mehmet Shehu’s villa that night at all’. After I did not accept what was asked of me, Sokol Koleka told me: ‘Accept for what we are asking you, because here you will die, you will not come out alive from here, without accepting what we are saying’. But I had made up my mind not to accept any of what they asked of me, for not only were they not standing and they were not true at all, but I knew that if I accepted I was sure the bullet was waiting for me.
After denying the charges against you, did they use physical torture against you?
During the whole period of 18 months that I have been kept in a cell chained head and foot, both in Elbasan and then in the prison of Tirana (rep. 313), I have been tortured in the most inhuman way, both physically and psychic. Investigator Sokol Koleka, after sitting me on the table that was fixed on the concrete, climbed into a chair and put his ass on the helmet I had on my head and smoked for minutes. Sokoli used to say to me: ‘Here you will die, if you do not accept, your son has fallen from the fourth floor, so accept that we let him look like that dead’.
Only Sokol Koleka was your investigator, or did you have others?
In the beginning it was only Sokol Koleka, but later they brought two others, Bashkim Caka and another one, called Flamur, whose surname I unfortunately do not remember. But, for these two I cannot complain, because they have behaved in the most excellent way towards me. I say in the most brilliant way, because not only did they not touch me with their hands, but Flamur looked from the door of the room so that no one could see him and put something in my mouth, feeding me, as I was bound hand and foot. . I remember a case when Bashkim Caka allegedly hit me, and at that moment, Sokol Koleka, who apparently had eavesdropped on him through the keyhole, went inside all the nerves and after taking the rubber stick from his hand, he said, ‘Not so,’ and began to strike at me with all his might. ”
During the investigation, did you encounter any of the other detainees who were considered collaborators of “Mehmet Shehu’s hostile group”?
I was confronted several times by other detainees, such as Fiqret, her two sons, Skënder and Bashkimi, Llambi Peçini, and others I do not remember at the moment, as many years have passed since then. All of them, not only did not accuse me of anything, but took me into defense, saying that I was innocent. I remember when I was confronted with Fiqret Shehu, she told the investigators: ‘Okay with us, but with this, what did you have? He just opens and closes the door, that’s what he did. I have nothing to say about this boy. ‘ Memorie.al