TikTok suicide case grips Albania

TikTok suicide case grips Albania
The Durres Prosecutor’s Office said Xhemal Loka is suspected of physical and mental violence against his late wife, which may have led to her suicide. / Durres Prosecutor’s Office via Twitter
By bne IntelliNews January 9, 2024

The case of Bedrie Loka, a 41-year-old woman who killed herself on January 2 after she was the victim of a bullying campaign on the social network TikTok, has dominated the headlines in Albania. 

The case initially appeared to be an extreme example of online harassment. It concerned a TikTok account created in Loka’s name without her knowledge or consent, and where offensive photos of her were published.

In the latest development, Bedrie Loka’s husband Xhemal has been charged with causing his wife’s suicide

Like many Albanians, Bedrie, a mother of four, had been earning a living abroad; she lived in Greece, while her husband remained in Albania. At the time of her death, Bedrie had only recently come back to her homeland. 

According to her husband’s account to police, on the morning of January 2 Xhemal Loka found his wife lying on the floor of their living room.

With the help of his brother, he took Bedrie to the Durres Regional Hospital Emergency Room, where medical professionals verified that she had ingested the poison phostoxin.

She was sent to the University Hospital Center Mother Teresa (QSUT) for treatment, but died in intensive care. 

The case initially appeared to be an extreme example of cyberbullying, and Parliament Speaker Lindita Nikolla said on January 5 that there are plans to set stricter rules for online media, and called for the perpetrators to be given “the maximum punishment they deserve”. 

"A mother of four sacrificed herself because of denigration on social media,” said Nikolla, according to a Parliament statement. 

“The parliament will immediately reconsider, with priority, the tightening of the legislation for online media and the Criminal Code, especially the provisions related to cybercrime, attacks, insults and aggressiveness in social networks,” she added. 

However, testimony by the Lokas’ children of the arguments between the couple and Xhemal’s alleged abuse and blackmail of Bedrie led to the arrest of Xhemal Loka on suspicion that he had pushed his wife to commit suicide. 

A threatening video and SMS sent by Xhemal to Bedrie were also discovered when Xhemal’s phone was seized by police. Police also discovered a pistol belonging to Xhemal in a chicken coup near the Lokas’ apartment. 

The Durres Prosecutor’s Office said on January 8 that Xhemal Loka is suspected of physical and mental violence against his late wife, which may have led to her suicide. 

“Based on statements gathered from the deceased's family members, scrutiny of mobile phones, and additional investigative measures, there are compelling suspicions, substantiated by evidence, that the detained individual subjected the deceased to both physical and psychological abuse,” said the Durres Prosecutor’s Office in a statement on January 8. 

“This systematic mistreatment is believed to have played a role in the tragic outcome of the deceased taking her own life." 

IT experts are currently investigating who opened the TikTok account at the centre of the scandal.