CDU lawmaker says Xhafaj case progress matters in opening negotiations

CDU lawmaker says Xhafaj case progress matters in opening negotiations

TIRANA, May 24 – In the context of Albania’s long-awaited opening of accession negotiations with the EU, Christian Democratic Union lawmaker and reporter for Albania at the German Bundestag Thorsten Frei said Germany is also observing the Xhafaj case progress.

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Thieves break into Durres prosecution office, steal documents in property alienation case

Thieves break into Durres prosecution office, steal documents in property alienation case

TIRANA, May 24 – The Durres General Prosecution Office was burglarized overnight by unidentified individuals, who stole documents from prosecutors’ offices. Local media reported the prosecution’s main entrance did not show signs of breaking and entering, but maintenance had notified

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Montenegro looking into building migrant fence on Albanian border

Montenegro looking into building migrant fence on Albanian border

TIRANA, May 21 – A government representative said on Sunday Montenegro does not exclude the possibility of building a migrant fence on the Albania-Montenegro border to keep out illegal migrants and refugees coming from Syria and other third countries. Vojislav

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As political climate worsens, int’l reps increase visits

As political climate worsens, int’l reps increase visits

TIRANA, May 24 – The opposition’s calls for national protest on Saturday did not stop several international representatives from visiting Tirana this week over a number of foreign policy issues. Florian Hahn, spokesperson for Europe and Christian Social Union lawmaker

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Former MoI Tahiri appeals court’s house arrest decision

Former MoI Tahiri appeals court’s house arrest decision

TIRANA, May 23 – As previously warned by his lawyer, Albania’s former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri appealed the First Instance Court decision that has placed him under house arrest over drug trafficking and passive corruption the last ten days.

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Vlora prisoner escape highlights courtroom security issues

Vlora prisoner escape highlights courtroom security issues

TIRANA, May 23 – Mikel Kasa, a 28-year-old man in police custody and on trial for drug trafficking and kidnapping, escaped a Vlora courtroom on Wednesday, drawing attention to lack of proper security in institutions dealing with high-risk individuals. During

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Only one percent of Albania’s poor have access to university-level education

Only one percent of Albania’s poor have access to university-level education

TIRANA, May 22 – Recent data show that 59 percent of Albanians with access to university-level education belong to the country’s minority upper class, while only one percent of the lower class has access to public or private higher education.

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Authorities ban protest against police brutality in Roma man’s death

Authorities ban protest against police brutality in Roma man’s death

TIRANA, May 22 – Albanian police have refused to grant permission to a protest rally against alleged police brutality that resulted in a man’s death in Korça. Roma and Egyptian community members wanted to protest in front of the Ministry

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Opposition lawmakers called by prosecution over Xhafaj wiretap

Opposition lawmakers called by prosecution over Xhafaj wiretap

TIRANA, May 22 – Democratic Party lawmakers Ervin Salianji and Enkelejd Alibeaj, as well as legal counselor Gazmend Bardhi, were called by the Serious Crimes Prosecution on Monday to give explanations concerning the wiretapped conversation allegedly between Albert Veliu and

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Remembering Spaç: 45 years from the anti-communist revolt

Remembering Spaç: 45 years from the anti-communist revolt

TIRANA, May 22 – Monday marked 45 years from the day the politically persecuted in the Spaç prison – one of the most infamous communist period concentration camps – revolted against the regime by raising a flag lacking the communist

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 24 - In the context of Albania’s long-awaited opening of accession negotiations with the EU, Christian Democratic Union lawmaker and reporter for Albania at the German Bundestag Thorsten Frei said Germany is also observing the Xhafaj case progress. 

In an exclusive interview, Frei said the way judges and prosecutors will follow up the Xhafaj case will affect Germany’s decision to open accession negotiations with the country in June.

According to Frei the Xhafaj case requires an independent investigation, while he also admitted Germany will collect whatever information it needs to give a stand on the country’s opening of negotiations.

“I follow the case with a lot of attention. But I cannot judge it legally. However, taking into consideration law implementation, it is important for Albanian politicians and judges to do that,” Frei said. 

He added that the opposition’s accusations toward the country’s minister of interior and his brother are serious and that it is in the government’s interest to clarify these accusations as soon as possible.

“The minister’s behavior is crucial, in my opinion. It should be made clear he did not break the law to protect his brother. This requires an independent investigation,” Frei said. 

He concluded his interview by adding that Germany’s vote on whether Albania should open accession negotiations with the EU or not will highly depend on whether the country has fulfilled conditions placed on fighting corruption and enforcing the rule of law. 

In this context, the Xhafaj case, among others, and the way it will be dealt with by the country’s judiciary system, is also a determining fact in Germany’s final say. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 24 - The Durres General Prosecution Office was burglarized overnight by unidentified individuals, who stole documents from prosecutors’ offices.

Local media reported the prosecution’s main entrance did not show signs of breaking and entering, but maintenance had notified damage of doors in the building’s fourth and fifth floors. 

Police have begun an investigation, reportedly going through security cameras, although the robbers broke video recording equipment, and collecting the robbers’ fingerprints. On Thursday morning the prosecution was surrounded by a big number of policemen, while prosecutors are looking to find what documents are missing. 

Preliminary data suggests the suspected object of the robbery was prosecutor Afrim Shehu’s office, where an investigation file on coastal properties’ alienation was stored, among his other cases. The judicial policemen’s office was also reportedly robbed. 

This is the second time within two weeks that legal material from Durres’ General Prosecution are being stolen by unknown people. The institution’s postman was robbed by two people on May 8, while delivering files and documents.

Prosecutors and judges’ representatives have repeatedly called for strengthened safeguards in their institutions and for their personal security. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 21 - A government representative said on Sunday Montenegro does not exclude the possibility of building a migrant fence on the Albania-Montenegro border to keep out illegal migrants and refugees coming from Syria and other third countries. 

Vojislav Dragovic, the head of Montenegro’s department for state border supervision, gave this statement in the context of the increasing refugee influx coming from Albania.

“If there is a high refugee flux, we will build a wired wall on the border with Albania,” Dragovic said.

He added that Albanian authorities occasionally refuse to take back refugees being sent back from Montenegro within the bilateral refugee readmission agreement framework.

Thousands of Middle East refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty continue to head toward Western Europe via the Western Balkans. Recently, smugglers have been using a new corridor passing through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach Croatia, which is a European Union member state.

Montenegro’s statement is not unprecedented, as a number of EU states have built fences and walls to keep refugees outside their borders. Hungary built one on the border with Serbia and Croatia during the 2015 refugee crisis, when more than 1 million refugees and migrants entered the EU.

According to recent reports, the number of refugees passing the border to Montenegro has indeed increased lately, worsening the government’s capacity to deal with their needs accordingly.

In 2015, Montenegro opened its first refugee camp in Spuzhe, next to Podgorica, while officials have said two more camps will open close to Albania, in Zogaj and in Hani i Hotit.  

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 24 - The opposition’s calls for national protest on Saturday did not stop several international representatives from visiting Tirana this week over a number of foreign policy issues.

Florian Hahn, spokesperson for Europe and Christian Social Union lawmaker in Germany’s Bundestag, arrived on Wednesday in Tirana for a series of meetings with high-ranking officials.

Hahn met with politicians from both ends of the political spectrum, starting from opposition leader Lulzim Basha to Prime Minister Edi Rama. 

Hahn’s Tirana visit was scheduled to take place since the beginning of May -- the day former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri resigned his parliamentary immunity -- but was cancelled on short notice. 

He also met the head of the Socialist Movement for Integration Monika Kryemadhi on Wednesday -- one of the main protest organizers and supporters -- who wrote in context of their meeting that “Albania’s integration should serve Albanians, and not politics.”

In addition to Hahn, the 15th Southeast European Meeting on regional security and countering violent extremism that will also take place in Tirana on Saturday will bring in the capital a number of Southeast leaders and lawmakers. 

Among them is US Deputy Assistant Secretary Pete Marocco.

Lastly, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation is also expected to conduct a meeting with heads of institutions and the opposition’s leaders Lulzim Basha and Monika Kryemadhi. 

Following the delegation, OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger will meet with the government’s and opposition’s highest ranking officials on May 29. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 23 - As previously warned by his lawyer, Albania’s former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri appealed the First Instance Court decision that has placed him under house arrest over drug trafficking and passive corruption the last ten days. 

Tahiri’s lawyer, Maks Haxhia, submitted on Wednesday at the court a request to change Tahiri’s punishment by removing his house arrest.

The court session for former MoI Tahiri, who resigned from his parliamentary immunity two weeks ago and handed himself to justice as a normal citizen, is scheduled to take place on Monday, May 28. 

Both sides - Tahiri and the country’s Serious Crimes Prosecution - have objected to the court decision. While Tahiri wants to ease his punishment, the country’s prosecution wants Tahiri to be remanded in custody until his trial date.

Last week, Haxhia expressed confidence he will be able to reverse the court decision placed on Tahiri through the Court of Appeals. 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-05-23 14:15:09
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 23 - Mikel Kasa, a 28-year-old man in police custody and on trial for drug trafficking and kidnapping, escaped a Vlora courtroom on Wednesday, drawing attention to lack of proper security in institutions dealing with high-risk individuals.

During his trial Kasa was left without cuffs, while, in a video showing the escape that went viral online, he can be seen running through the door and down two floors with couple policemen behind him before he took to the city streets.

Following the escape, Vlora police forces began a manhunt to chase him down, reportedly stopping and thoroughly checking all vehicles leaving the city.

Kasa was given five years in prison, but his sentence was lowered to 3-4 years by pleading guilty and agreeing to a speedy trial. 

After Kasa’s escape, the head of Vlora’s Court Skender Haluci told local media the city’s court lacks proper security. 

According to Haluci’s statement, law enforcement officials have constantly experienced security problems, while, in this case, it was the court’s driver who tried to stop Kasa from escaping the building. 

“There were only two policemen in the courtroom. There is no other security personnel in this environment, despite my frequent requests. We ask Albanian authorities to undertake the necessary measures,” Haluci said. 

Albania’s former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, on the other hand, shared the escape video on Facebook and said “the kidnapper’s escape” was a “spectacular win for criminal power.”
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                    [post_date] => 2018-05-22 15:54:04
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 22 - Recent data show that 59 percent of Albanians with access to university-level education belong to the country’s minority upper class, while only one percent of the lower class has access to public or private higher education.

The results rank Albania last on education welfare in the region. In Croatia, 11 percent of the country’s poor go to university, in Serbia ten percent, in Bosnia and Herzegovina eight while in Macedonia four percent. 

The data, coming from the World Inequality Database on Education and edited by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for its annual Southeastern Europe inequality report, has led experts to say that lack of access to education will threaten youth equality in the region.

They add that the country’s poor education quality can lead to the social expulsion of low-class youth and put one group in unfavorable position in the job market in relation to the other groups.

In Albania, this issue touches Roma community children and those with limited physical or mental abilities the most and severely affects their chances for future employment.

Although elementary and middle-school education is relatively cheap and accessible in the region, university education is mostly offered by public institutions free of charge or low cost. The big number of students attending public universities also affects the quality of education, while private institutions have a bad reputation for serving as business enterprises in Albania in particular. 

Education inequality has already become a cause for inequality within the country’s borders. University level students and citizens primarily choose to seek employment opportunities abroad, or otherwise live in the capital’s urban areas, while the rest have a growingly difficult time finding sustainable job positions in the market. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-05-22 13:59:50
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 22 - Albanian police have refused to grant permission to a protest rally against alleged police brutality that resulted in a man’s death in Korça.

Roma and Egyptian community members wanted to protest in front of the Ministry of Interior following the death of 27-year-old Enea Ftoj, who died after being allegedly beaten by police while in custody.

The protest, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and carry on for approximately three hours, was not given permission to begin in the first place. 

“We thought we should protest against this great injustice, the open discrimination that violates the right to life. As the police directorate did not give us permission, we ask the responsible justice bodies to help us in all citizens’ name. We call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take measures against the Korça police employees that violated Enea Ftoj,” a community representative and protester said. 

Enea Ftoj died inside a Korça police station cell last week, where he was detained for a violent robbery. 

His family members have accused policemen of beating him to death, while investigations to clarify what exactly happened in the police station have reportedly began.

Ftoj’s wife said that in addition to the beatings, policemen were also giving her husband tranquilizers like Diazepam due to his drug use, although she had warned them he was suffering heart conditions.

The official police statement, on the other hand, said no violence was exercised on Ftoj, who was found dead in his cell around 8 a.m. on May 17. According to the police, Ftoj was given Diazepam because he had suffered several anxiety attacks due to his addiction. 

He was a heroin user, according to family members. 

Meanwhile, other Korça citizens belonging to the Roma community said last week that they had suffered police violence to the point they have lost conscience has been previously exercised on them, also on racist grounds.

 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-05-22 11:06:31
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 22 - Democratic Party lawmakers Ervin Salianji and Enkelejd Alibeaj, as well as legal counselor Gazmend Bardhi, were called by the Serious Crimes Prosecution on Monday to give explanations concerning the wiretapped conversation allegedly between Albert Veliu and the brother of Albania’s minister of interior, Agron Xhafaj.

Salianji and Alibeaj, in cooperation with Bardhi, were the ones who went public with the wiretap which, according to Veliu, testifies to the recent conversation between him and Agron concerning cannabis trafficking in Italy.

Agron, who traveled to Italy last week to serve a sentence issued by Italian authorities in 2002, has denied ever having this conversation with Veliu. Both Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj have also said the wiretap is not authentic, but rather staged by the opposition to block the country’s EU integration.

While Veliu said he was unaware of the surveillance during his public statement, journalist Jetmir Olldashi said he’d authored the investigation and placed a recording device on Veliu at all times.

The DP lawmakers said the investigation should have begun from Fatmir’s brother, and not from the ones pressing charges on a possible high-rank corruption case. 

The issue also became a point of debate in Monday’s parliamentary committees, where opposition representatives repeatedly asked for Fatmir’s resignation from his post as MoI and reaffirmed Saturday’s national anti-government rally. 
                    [post_title] => Opposition lawmakers called by prosecution over Xhafaj wiretap  
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                    [post_date] => 2018-05-22 09:33:27
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 22 - Monday marked 45 years from the day the politically persecuted in the Spaç prison - one of the most infamous communist period concentration camps - revolted against the regime by raising a flag lacking the communist star.

The Spaç revolt represents one of the country’s most powerful anti-communist symbols and constitutes one of the events that shook the regime at the time. The revolt began on May 21 and lasted until May 23, 1973, when it was forcefully oppressed. 

Four prisoners who were deemed the organizers of the revolt - Hajro Pashai, Dervish Bejko, Pal Zefi and Skënder Daja - were shot at the spot, while other protesters suffered heavy punishment within the prison walls. 

Albania’s President Ilir Meta, who attended the commemoration ceremony, said the anniversary is a day to reflect, as much as it is a day to remember.

“Facing the past and releasing society from the nightmare of communism’s crimes remain serious priorities for Albanian politics and society,” Meta said.

He added that past tragedies are destined to return in different ways, if forgotten.

Head of the EU Delegation to Albania Romana Vlahutin, attending the ceremony, also said Spaç should be preserved as a remembrance sight to let future generations know what happened in Albania. 

“The EU has undertaken a project that will identify the murdered people’s DNA. The project has begun in the Dajt area and will help relatives identify their loved ones as soon as possible,” Vlahutin said. 

Meanwhile, the country’s opposition Democratic Party has also began drafting an initiative that aims to ban the public use of communist dictatorship symbols, with the aid of German expertise. 

 
                    [post_title] => Remembering Spaç: 45 years from the anti-communist revolt 
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            [post_date] => 2018-05-24 19:06:14
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, May 24 - In the context of Albania’s long-awaited opening of accession negotiations with the EU, Christian Democratic Union lawmaker and reporter for Albania at the German Bundestag Thorsten Frei said Germany is also observing the Xhafaj case progress. 

In an exclusive interview, Frei said the way judges and prosecutors will follow up the Xhafaj case will affect Germany’s decision to open accession negotiations with the country in June.

According to Frei the Xhafaj case requires an independent investigation, while he also admitted Germany will collect whatever information it needs to give a stand on the country’s opening of negotiations.

“I follow the case with a lot of attention. But I cannot judge it legally. However, taking into consideration law implementation, it is important for Albanian politicians and judges to do that,” Frei said. 

He added that the opposition’s accusations toward the country’s minister of interior and his brother are serious and that it is in the government’s interest to clarify these accusations as soon as possible.

“The minister’s behavior is crucial, in my opinion. It should be made clear he did not break the law to protect his brother. This requires an independent investigation,” Frei said. 

He concluded his interview by adding that Germany’s vote on whether Albania should open accession negotiations with the EU or not will highly depend on whether the country has fulfilled conditions placed on fighting corruption and enforcing the rule of law. 

In this context, the Xhafaj case, among others, and the way it will be dealt with by the country’s judiciary system, is also a determining fact in Germany’s final say. 

 
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