Citizens clash with police at Astir area, leaving several injured

Citizens clash with police at Astir area, leaving several injured

TIRANA, Nov. 11 – Strong clashes were registered in the early morning hours in Tirana’s Astir area, where the Territorial Defense Inspectorate (IKMT) had planned the start of demolition of several buildings affected by the new Ring Road construction project. 

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Opposition leader accused of document forging, eased of money laundering charges

Opposition leader accused of document forging, eased of money laundering charges

TIRANA, Nov. 11 – Two prosecutors from the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office demanded on Friday the trial of Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, former Secretary General Arben Ristani and Ilir Dervishi, for “falsification of marks, stamps and forms.” At the same

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Prosecution issues arrest order for Vora Mayor

Prosecution issues arrest order for Vora Mayor

TIRANA, Nov. 11 – The Tirana prosecutor’s office announced today that it is looking for former Vora mayor Agim Kajmaku, who has been placed under jail arrest in connection with the ongoing investigation towards allegations he committed the criminal offenses

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Inter-religious Institute established in Albania- a pioneer idea to bring together all stakeholders of interreligious dialogue and cooperation

Inter-religious Institute established in Albania- a pioneer idea to bring together all stakeholders of interreligious dialogue and cooperation

TIRANA, Nov. 1 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the Interreligious Collaboration Centre Elbasan  (IRCCE) have recently just established the Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation – the first of its kind in the country – to

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Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare

Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare

TIRANA, Nov. 6 – Alvin Berisha, the 11-year-old Albanian boy, has left the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria and is now free in Damascus. His father, Afrim Berisha, confirmed that Alvin had left the Al Hol camp, where he was

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Opposition seeks early elections under condition of electoral reform

Opposition seeks early elections under condition of electoral reform

TIRANA, Oct. 6 – The opposition has further increased called for early elections, as its leader Lulzim Basha is no longer saying he will not accept elections with Edi Rama as the country’s Prime Minister, but that an electoral reform

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Police sequester $14mln worth of assets related to criminal activity

Police sequester $14mln worth of assets related to criminal activity

TIRANA, Nov. 5 – Albanian police said on Monday that it seized assets worth about $14 million, allegedly obtained in criminal ways and linked to Albanian citizen Arian Shanaj, a Fier resident. The police operation came after a Fier court

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Socialist Vora mayor dismissed under decriminalization law

Socialist Vora mayor dismissed under decriminalization law

TIRANA, Nov. 2 – The Central Election Commission (KQZ) in Albania dismissed on Friday Vora Mayor Agim Kajmaku, after he failed to state in the decriminalization form that he had been arrested in Greece and that he had been prosecuted

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Protesters seek OSCE Ambassador’s resignation during ‘Media Development Forum’

Protesters seek OSCE Ambassador’s resignation during ‘Media Development Forum’

TIRANA, Nov. 3 – During the ‘Media Development Forum’ organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Europena Union on Friday, OSCE Ambassador Bernd Borchardt faced again protests by citizens who entered the hall, seeking his

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Durres prosecutors becomes target of assassination

Durres prosecutors becomes target of assassination

TIRANA, Nov. 2 – Durres Prosecutor Arjan Ndoja was the target of an assassination attempt on Friday evening.  The vehicle he was traveling in was the target of several automatic gun bullets as it was entering the city of Durres. 

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 11 - Strong clashes were registered in the early morning hours in Tirana’s Astir area, where the Territorial Defense Inspectorate (IKMT) had planned the start of demolition of several buildings affected by the new Ring Road construction project. 

Numerous police forces appeared in support of the Inspectorate's intervention, encountering strong opposition from some of the residents.

According to a Tirana Police announcement, “a group of residents have been violently opposed by IKMT and police officers. Residents have attacked with stones, solid items and molotov bombs police officers, who were there doing their duty. As a result of the attack five police officers from the HNF, Eagles and General Patrols were injured and were sent for medical assistance to the military hospital.”

Police also used tear gas to repel residents opposing the intervention. Some residents are reported to have been escorted to the police station. The situation has since calmed down and no further clashes have been recorded. 

“State police are urging residents to distance themselves from violence and not fall prey to provocations, as they will face legal consequences. Also, the State Police calls on the citizens present at the New Ring not to urge the residents to attack the Police forces and to avoid misinformation,” the police statement underlines.

President Ilir Meta sided with the residents. 

In a Facebook post, he says it is " today's repeated violence against New Ring residents who are protesting in defense of their homes and property is unacceptable. The arrogance in the face of the misery and trauma that has been inflicted on these families for months is intolerable,” the Head of State writes as he urged residents “to remain calm and not be subject to provocations and the parties to sit down immediately in dialogue.”

According to IKMT there are 33 objects that are expected to be demolished at this stage. For 21 of them the expropriation procedure has been applied while the rest are reported to have been disqualified from the possibility of legalization.

Tensions in this area of ​​the capital have continued since last year, when the first interventions to build the New Ring began. The project was halted after it was discovered that in one of the lots, the winning company DH Albania had forged the documents submitted in the competition. 

The authorities then undertook the project as they conducted a new tender.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 11 - Two prosecutors from the Tirana Prosecutor's Office demanded on Friday the trial of Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, former Secretary General Arben Ristani and Ilir Dervishi, for "falsification of marks, stamps and forms."

At the same time, prosecutors Ervin Karanxha and Gjergj Tako filed a motion to dismiss the charge against Basha on laundering products or criminal activity.

They published a document with their two signatures about these investigations, which lacked the signature of a third member of the investigation team.

The claim is still known to be still in the prosecutor's office and has not yet been brought to court for administrative reasons.

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha was summoned by the prosecution six months ago as a defendant to be acquitted of the charge in connection with the investigation launched into lobbying payments in the United States.

Basha has held Prime Minister Edi Rama accountable for "deciding to open investigations against him through Putin-based methods, on ridiculous allegations made by his political prosecution.”

The DP issued a statement Friday evening, stating that "the prosecution dropped the ridiculous charge fabricated in Edi Rama's office to hit his political opponent, which remained open for two years to rattle the corrupt scandals of his government and links to organized crime. But now it has been established that there has never been any investigation in the US against the DP,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile Taulant Balla, one of the leaders of the Socialist Party, stated that the investigation against Basha should be carried out by the SPAK, the soon-to-be-established Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution. He said Basha should not easily pass the charge of money laundering and be charged only on forging documents.

"As Albanians await the rise of the SPAK, it is unacceptable for certain prosecutors to grant amnesty for such serious offenses. The court must not admit it and must take it again under investigation,” Balla wrote on social media.

The issue of lobbying payments made by the DP opened in November 2017, when the US lobbying firm 'Muzin Capitol Partners' supplemented with additional information its statutory statements required by the Department of Justice in the US. 

According to the 'Muzin' company, it received three payments, in the amount of $675,000, for her work in favor of the Democratic Party in 2017.

Of these statements by the Muzin firm, only $25,000 has been accepted by Basha to have been paid by his party while it also denied links with the firm 'Biniatta Trade LP,’ a company headquartered in Scotland but with Russian backed ties. 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 11 - The Tirana prosecutor's office announced today that it is looking for former Vora mayor Agim Kajmaku, who has been placed under jail arrest in connection with the ongoing investigation towards allegations he committed the criminal offenses of "abuse of office", "falsification of forms" and "exercise of functions after termination of office".

Only 11 days ago, Kajmaku, elected as head of the Vora municipality representing the Socialist Party, was dismissed by a unanimous decision of the Central Election Commission (KQZ) after failing to declare in the decriminalization form the fact he had been arrested in Greece and had been prosecuted in the neighboring state. 

However, his arrest warrant relates to the fact that he is suspected to have signed the dismissal of two of his deputies after the KQZ made the decision to remove him from office, and he lost the firm's rights as mayor. 

Moreover, it is suspected that Kajmaku has also forged the date of the dismissal of two Deputy Mayors. 

Police officers who arrived at his apartment to execute the arrest did not find him and searches are continuing.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-11-08 09:53:02
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 1 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the Interreligious Collaboration Centre Elbasan  (IRCCE) have recently just established the Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation - the first of its kind in the country - to provide a positive model for the entire region and beyond. The implementing partners are jointly working to design the next year activities involving all relevant stakeholders from religious communities, community organizations and academia.

The three main objectives of this initiative are first for the institute to conduct scientific religious research and studies, next to support interreligious dialogue starting from the grassroots level and finally to promote the Albanian model of religious harmony whenever it’s applicable abroad. 

“The reason why we thought this is timely is because whatever has existed so far has been very sporadic, so there is no systematic encouragement of interreligious dialogue; there are only different small projects here and there, which do not really connect the religious community with other stakeholders, so our effort is to create connections with other parts of the society,” said Alba Cela, Deputy Director of AIIS. 

The Inter-Religious Centre, in line with this rationale, also aims to build bridges between the country’s religious and secular communities in order to create common social approaches, to conduct studies on the culture of dialogue, intercultural studies, studies on all faiths and religions, as well as their relations to all aspects of social life. 

According to the Executive Director of the Interreligious Centre Dr.Arben Ramkaj, what is innovative about this new idea is the cooperation in itself of a well-established think tank likes AIIS with a local centre, in order to bring together national and local knowledge together. 

“Our expectations are to eventually turn into a cooperation centre not only for Albania, but the entire Western Balkans, and to promote the country’s harmonic religious model among many communities, including those who once experienced conflicts, and why not eventually produce academic materials which could be used in the field of education,” Ramkaj said. 

The project is also supported by the expertise of Open Europe Consulting, which brought its director and one of its experts in Tirana for two days to assist with the initial stages of the institute’s establishment. 

The project’s target and phases include phase one, the baseline study, the establishment of an interreligious network and Advisory Board and a draft concept of the institute and envisioned implementation strategy; phase two, which is the institute’s actual establishment, as well as that professional support and scientific backup, the start of regional initiatives at the grassroots level and gaining project funding; phase three, which foresees the institute’s potential inclusion in policy-making and regular funding.

“Albania is the country with the biggest ground for this project’s success - it has tradition, the history, the traces of the past still present, and we found during the mapping that in Albania there is already this tradition of religious harmony and that with communism a big part of that was destroyed, but that there is still place to study and promote it. So to establish this in a country where people are already open to that, is important,” said Andrea Mewaldt, director of Open Europe. 

The first brainstorming session held sought to address issues such as radicalization and extremism, the lack of foreign funding - the religious communities in Albania have small financial sources due to the lack of repropriation by the state - and the education of new clerics. 

The education of new clerics, which is a particular problem as a big number of new clerics in Albania study abroad, bringing back home a religious culture that differs from the traditional Albanian one. Different studies have shown that foreign influences play an important role in the radicalization of vulnerable people. 

The Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation will create a network among the religious communities, government and non-government organizations and different donors to also provide additional support for other grassroots initiatives and to eventually reach a stage to make policy recommendations valid for initiatives of interreligious cooperation

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-11-08 09:25:30
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 6 - Alvin Berisha, the 11-year-old Albanian boy, has left the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria and is now free in Damascus.

His father, Afrim Berisha, confirmed that Alvin had left the Al Hol camp, where he was alone.

"The boy is currently in Damascus, I am waiting for him to leave for Rome," he said.

On an operational level, Alvin's rescuing mission was carried out over four days by the organization ‘Syrian Half Moon,’ in cooperation with the International Red Cross but under the communication of Italian and Albanian police forces. 

The Italian media reported that both the Albanian and Italian governments were aware about the situation and operation, while on a diplomatic level the Albanian Embassy to Italy was also notified in advance.

Alvin's father had been looking for him since 2014, when his Albanian mother abandoned his family in Italy where they had lived for years and took Alvin, then six years old, to the Al Haul camp in Syria in the border with Turkey.

His Albanian mother, who started wearing a hijab, began to pray and displayed radical behavior before abducting him by his father, had died in the camp along with a foreign man whom she had married. 

Alvin remained alone, and after many attempts by his father, the investigative show "Le Iene" managed to find Alvin and meet his father after five years.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities called Alvin’s rescue mission an unprecedented one. 

 

Gov’t: “28 Albanian children currently in Kurdish camps”

The Albanian government is now making efforts to return to Albania all women and children in the  camp, already under the process of identification. This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

“Albania has established contacts during June and July. A potential repatriation operation was discussed at the end of August. But the situation on the ground changed. The operation froze. The US has withdrawn and there is a new geopolitical situation on the ground,” said Spiropali.

According to her, about 500 people from the Balkans are still there, 150 are Albanians, 72 are from Albania, 11-13 men classified as terrorists in prisons controlled by Kurdish forces.

“Of the 1,000 individuals from the Western Balkans in that area, about 400 have returned to their home countries, making this region the largest concentration of foreign fighters in Europe," Spiropali said.

Spiropali's interpellation was requested by a group of lawmakers seeking information on the rescue operations of Alvin, who attracted the attention of Italian journalists because his father lives in Italy. 

"Alvin's father received a letter from him in June. His presence at the camp was announced by the International Red Cross near the Albanian embassy in Cairo in early September. We have tried to help the Berisha family. Our embassy was informed on September 22 that a group of Italian journalists would travel to the camp, which was carried out on September 28. Officially, this is a difficult job,” said Spiropali.

She added that the situation in Syria continues to be complicated as a conflict zone with limited information.

Many Albanians traveled undocumented and crossed the border illegally, so complete identification and complition of the operation is a difficult task due to the lack of counterpart institutions, as their Albanian documents have disappeared and they have been generally equipped with Caliphate documents, which too have been torn down to prevent ISIS from being identified.

“The Albanian state is doing everything possible to return women and children from those camps. These territories are controlled by paramilitary structures and do not comply with international rules on the release of persons or the exchange of captives. In the re-ignited situation, operational steps cannot be made public at all, because those persons' lives would be endangered by revealing their identities,” said Spiropali.

It has been reported that among them there are also Albanian children born in the conflict area, but their number cannot be confirmed.

 

Albania included in US State Department’s terrorism report 

The US State Department released its annual Terrorism Report, which summarizes the achievements and challenges of the United States and its allies in combating and defeating terrorist organizations during 2018.

Despite achievements against the Islamic State’s terrorist organization, the report says Europe continues to face a number of threats from foreign terrorist organizations, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, internally cultivated terrorism, and Iranian-backed terrorists.

Albania is also mentioned among the European countries that took concrete steps against the terrorism backed by the Iranian regime. 

The section on Albania states that the country continued to strongly support anti-terror efforts and continued to participate in the Global Coalition for the Elimination of ISIS. 

Meanwhile, terrorist threats in Albania come from foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, as well as efforts to radicalize the Albanian youth towards violence. 

In December 2018, Albania expelled two Iranian officials, including the Iranian Ambassador, in response to an Iranian-sponsored plan to carry out a terrorist attack in Albania. 

Albania continues to benefit from US government-funded assistance programs for the training of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts and judges. Despite efforts to prevent the financing of terrorism, the conclusion of MONEYVAL, a Council of Europe body, cites Albania's "low effectiveness" in the three main directions of terrorist financing: confiscation, investigation and extension of financial sanctions.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 6 - The opposition has further increased called for early elections, as its leader Lulzim Basha is no longer saying he will not accept elections with Edi Rama as the country’s Prime Minister, but that an electoral reform is necessary for the opposition to compete fairly.

The opposition said on Wednesday it is already completing its draft for electronic identification and e-voting. 

Some of this issue’s most important points were discussed during the Electoral reform group meeting on Tuesday, which lasted for more than two hours. 

E-voting has been the opposition’s Democratic Party main proposition also when it was part of the Parliament’s Special Electoral Reform Commission. 

Sources from the meeting said that opposition members are unified in thinking that e-voting success can not come from a pilot project, but from its implementation in the entire country.

After also consulting with electoral reform experts, former MP Oerd Bylykbashi spoke about party financing and campaigning. 

According to Bylykbashi, the DP and its allies will seek in their draft party financing transparency and a lower electoral campaigning cost. 

“We must guarantee to Albanians a complete transparency of party financing sources and sane ways to use them. Electoral campaigning cannot be something costly, it is something unacceptable to Albanians, there should be also reporting transparency and an efficient way to control who has broken the law and then to punish them, as in all European countries,” Bylykbashi said. 

He also stated the opposition will increase work intensity for its version of the electoral alternative this week so that it can provide a product as soon as possible.

He did not directly say to who the opposition draft will be addressed to, but insinuated the connecting bridge between the opposition and the governing majority will be the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the ODIHR. 

“The OSCE as an organization and the OSCE/ODIHR together have offered continuous help and contribution not only through the years, but also during these elections. The OSCE/ODIHR report on the 2019 local elections is one of the most unique documents concerning Albanian elections that aims to show the way by pointing its finger on one of the most fundamental problems. Parties must understand this. Elections are for Albanians, but voters and parties serve as representation agents. What is happening in Parliament currently has nothing to do with this concept,” Bylykbashi said. 

He further accused the government of acting against the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations and that the opposition is fully engaged towards the reform, which was one of the nine conditions the German Bundestag gave Albania to open negotiations with the EU. 

According to him, if Rama had the will for free and fair elections, the electoral reform would not have been an added homework for the country.

“Our stand is clear. The electoral reform has to be real and complete. The OSCE/ODIHR clearly state this. The Law, the Electoral Code and the legislation are enough to hold democratic elections,” Bylykbashi concluded. 

Concerning party financing, the opposition plans to propose that it is conducted entirely from money stemming from the state budget, in order to avoid private financing from dubious sources. Parallel to this, it proposed that private financing of parties be criminalized. 

 

Opposition begins local meetings with youth

The united and resigned opposition recently also started the tour ‘Roadmapping Albania,’ which marks meetings with youths in different cities - so far Elbasan, Korca and Shkodra.

Quoting the World Bank report that corruption in Albania is higher than in 2005, Basha said from Shkodra that today corruption in Albania is considered one of the worst in the world.

Basha says such an economy does not provide opportunities for young people, whose departure is a big blow.

“This economy offers no job opportunities, no business, a suffocating climate for small business in particular but also for big business and only one can be held responsible for the total failure of direct foreign investments. Across Albania, youth migration is bad, the worst here in Shkodra. I have been from some of Shkodra’s neighborhoods to its deepest areas, heard and seen grades from first to third closed due to lack of students in some villages. One week ago in Vukatan, overnight, 30 people left. From immigration alone Albania loses 560 million euros annually,” Basha said in Shkodra.

He further added Albania has all the potential to keep its youth here and to help itself develop.

We have to come together because these problems have only one author, so we have to formulate these solutions and make them a reality. We have to direct this race towards institutions, economics, science, giving everyone an equal opportunity. Shkodra lacks nothing, this city is blessed with natural beauty, blessed with its youth. We just have to have a government that has the vision, the will to create the conditions, the right climate for businesses, to attract foreign investment, create new jobs, return to the global race, return to welfare and decent job offers local, in our country,” Basha said. 

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition seeks early elections under condition of electoral reform 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-11-05 09:34:47
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-05 08:34:47
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 5 - Albanian police said on Monday that it seized assets worth about $14 million, allegedly obtained in criminal ways and linked to Albanian citizen Arian Shanaj, a Fier resident.

The police operation came after a Fier court decision, which a few days ago imposed a preventive order sequestering the Shanaj family’s real estate assets. 

According to the Albanian police, the seized assets related to Arian Shanaj include three gas construction and trading companies operating in Fier, Durres, Tirana, Korça, etc.

The police also seized one three-store hotel in Fier and an attached service unit, two three-storey villas, five service units with a total area of ​​7,982 square meters, three apartments, four garages with an area of ​​1,092 square meters in Fier, Tirana, Durres, 8,793 square meters of land, in Tirana, Durres, Fier, a vehicle worth $ 50,000 and about $ 25,000 in bank accounts.

According to police, Shanaj was arrested in June 2017 by Greek police along with a Greek national after being cought with 20kg of cocaine, with an estimated market value of about $ 1m.

Albanian police said that "the Albanian citizen and the Greek citizen were involved in the 
“import, storage, mixing, counterfeiting, recertification, trafficking, transportation and distribution of cocaine from Latin American countries.”

State Police said that immediately after the arrest in Greece and the exchange of information with the Greek side, investigations were launched against the Albanian citizen for the criminal offense of "cleaning the products of a penal act.”

Data published by the Greek press at that time referring to the Greek police authorities indicated that the organization's leaders had direct communication with a drug cartel in Colombia dealing with cocaine trafficking.

The drugs, according to Greek police, coming from Latin America to the Balkans, were processed in Kosovo and Albania and stored in the area of ​​Trikala in Greece for distribution to some of the Greek tourist islands.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-11-04 13:31:54
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 2 - The Central Election Commission (KQZ) in Albania dismissed on Friday Vora Mayor Agim Kajmaku, after he failed to state in the decriminalization form that he had been arrested in Greece and that he had been prosecuted in a neighboring state. 

For the opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, this case is further evidence of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s scheme to govern through crime. 

On his side, Rama stated that Friday’s decision was proof that the Socialist Party does not become a haven for anyone who has broken the law.

The KQZ meeting to consider the case of Vora's Socialist mayor did not last long. Its five members decided unanimously to adopt the decision, which came into force immediately with its publication in the Official Journal, while Kajmaku himself has the opportunity for one appeal. 

The Socialist mayor's case was made public by the opposition. 

It was the opposition which accused him of being detained in Greece in January 2003 under the name of Jorgo Toto, and subsequently brought a series of documents in support of her denunciation.

Vora's Socialist mayor repeatedly denied the DP's allegations. 

Betrayed by the fingerprints coming from Greece, which proved that Agim Kajmaku and Jorgo Toto arrested in Greece were the same person, he then presented the decision of the Ioannina Court which acquitted Jorgo Toton (alias Agim Kajmaku) on money counterfeiting charges. 

But not even this last move could save him. 

Kajmaku was penalized by the fact that he had not stated in the decriminalization form that he had been arrested and that he had been subject to criminal proceedings in Greece, instead categorically denying both. 

“Agim Kajmaku is Edi Rama’s face, the next mirror of who he governs with. It is a humiliation for the Socialist Party in the first place, which can not run without undocumented, uncriminated, uncorrupt candidates, but it is also a humiliation for all Albanians who excel everywhere in the world, but are ruled by criminals, traffickers, corrupted thieves, who belong  in prison and not in government,” Basha said. 

Asked by reporters about the decision on a SP-elected mayor, Rama sufficed by saying that "institutions are institutions". 

Later, via a Twitter post, he stated that the CEC has proven again that it is an Albanian state institution that defends the law and the public interest, not the old party tool as if it were yesterday and that “the Socialist Party has also reaffirmed that it is not the refuge of anyone who undertakes to violate our law and our faith.”

Kajmaku marks the second case, after that of Shkodra, of a Socialist mayor with problems with his past, but according to the Socialists these politicians are personally responsible for their morals, and not the political side they chose to be with. 

Friday's decision reopens the debate with President Ilir Meta as whether to call early elections in Vora, or to repeat the situation in Shkodra.

Meta stands by the opinion that local elections should have been held on October 13 to replace the illegitimate according to Meta June 30 elections, according to a decree signed by him but which no institution took into consideration.

Kajmaku was elected during the June 30 local elections, which in many districts lacked proper representation due to the opposition boycotting the elections entirely. A majority of the districts actually run only with Socialist Party representatives, with Kajmaku marking the second case of a mayor with a hidden criminal past. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-11-03 21:37:35
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-03 20:37:35
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 3 - During the ‘Media Development Forum’ organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Europena Union on Friday, OSCE Ambassador Bernd Borchardt faced again protests by citizens who entered the hall, seeking his removal.

Albanian women and girls entered the hall as the forum was about to start, carrying signs that asked Borchardt, who two weeks ago made a shameful public act, to resign from his post.

More concretely, Borchardt was strolling on a weekend evening when he was suddenly found amid calls of “Rama Go” and “Shame on you” on the street near the capital’s police department, where relatives of some of the detainees were protesting the release of their relatives.

Borchardt lifted one finger without turning his head to see to whom his gesture was actually directed.

“I respect the right of Albanians to protest peacefully. I would like to sincerely apologize to those I may have offended yesterday,” said Borchardt last week. 

The protesters called for Borchard to leave Albania by shouting ‘shame on you’ and ‘leave Albania’ and carrying cards which read ‘Borchard in Albania, a shame for Albania.’

The protesters stayed only for a few minutes and left the hall, where the forum continued. 

The OSCE and the EU said they are still waiting for a new version of the draft amendments to the media, being prepared by the government, to respect international standards of freedom of expression.

OSCE and EU backed Albanian independent, professional online media on Friday and called on lawmakers to ensure the highest standards of freedom of expression in drafting amendments to this area through an open debate on the concerns of all parties. 

OSCE and EU representatives called for transparency and public debate on government-proposed legal changes to media regulation.

“Officials should respond to letters and questions they have received and keep receiving from press representatives on these concerns,” Borchardt said.

"There is growing awareness of the importance of decriminalizing media violations," said Borchardt. 

“We want them to remain outside the Criminal Code and we will continue to seek decriminalization. Also the concentration of media ownership does not help their development and can be restricted by law,” Borchard added. 

Meanwhile, the head of the European Commission Delegation Luigi Soreca said that journalists work in difficult conditions and are often under political pressure.

“Our funding is also addressing labor rights issues for Albanian journalists. We want to support independent investigative journalism. Journalists' organizations have all the support of internationals to improve the state of the press,” said Soreca, highlighting comments on the government's recent legal initiative on the media.

“The EU has called for this initiative to be fully within the European directives on audio-visual media. A new version of the reflected concerns was introduced, but that is not enough. A project that is fully aligned with freedom of expression standards and with EU policies still needs to be secured. The European Commission shares the same concern with international organizations as regards the lack of legal certainty regarding the audio-visual media and the authority dealing with media regulation. We believe that this will affect freedom of expression. The European Commission believes in self-regulation efforts, which puts journalists and users first,” said Soreca.

The annual OSCE Forum aims to facilitate professional dialogue on the most important topics of the Albanian media and today held its fifth edition.

A group of international press freedom organizations visited Tirana and issued a joint report expressing concern that the government’s new draft amendments could limit press freedoms and the activity of Albanian journalists.

 
                    [post_title] => Protesters seek OSCE Ambassador’s resignation during ‘Media Development Forum’ 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-11-03 10:47:12
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 2 - Durres Prosecutor Arjan Ndoja was the target of an assassination attempt on Friday evening. 

The vehicle he was traveling in was the target of several automatic gun bullets as it was entering the city of Durres. 

Ndoja was injured, but not shot dead. 

Two more people were inside the car with Ndoja, one being Andi Maloku, reportedly the prosecutor’s driver. 

Maloku, in critical condition, was transported to the Trauma Hospital in Tirana, where numerous police forces were deployed, while Ndoja and Laho remained in the Durres hospital, also under strict police control.

On Tuesday, Albanian police announced the arrest of citizen Redjan Rraja, as allegedly one of the perpetrators of the assassination attempt on Friday against Ndoja, his driver Andi Maloku and the other passenger in the vehicle whose name remains unrevealed. 

Rraja was reportedly caught trying to flee the country. Another detail are his footsteps inside a car that was abaondned after the assassination attempt. 

Local media also highlighted his family ties to Socialist Party MP Rahman Rraja.

Rraja, in cooperation with other persons, allegedly attacked Ndoja’s vehicle while walking along the Tirana-Durres highway.

Ndoja’s name became known a few weeks back, following an arrest warrant issued by him towards Durres Mortgage Director Liridon Pula, an act that drew strong backlash from top government leaders, Prime Minister Edi Rama and Deputy Prime Minister Erion Brace, who repeatedly accused him of being a character linked to the underworld and acting on behalf of Durres gangs. 

Ndoja appears to be a controversial figure with a lot of layers. 

Prior to his appointment as a prosecutor, he was a lawyer - during this period he is reported to have defended many crime-world names. 

He was also later mentioned in the episode of the attempted attack, a few years ago in Durres, towards a prominent lawyer in this town.

On the other hand, the person traveling with him in the car, Aleksander Laho, is also a troubled character, suspected of being involved in criminal activity, having changed his identity several times, and suspected of being involved in the beating of a Lebanese businessman, who was investing in the construction of a tourist complex in the Lalz Bay. 

 

 
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            [post_date] => 2019-11-12 11:49:03
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 11 - Strong clashes were registered in the early morning hours in Tirana’s Astir area, where the Territorial Defense Inspectorate (IKMT) had planned the start of demolition of several buildings affected by the new Ring Road construction project. 

Numerous police forces appeared in support of the Inspectorate's intervention, encountering strong opposition from some of the residents.

According to a Tirana Police announcement, “a group of residents have been violently opposed by IKMT and police officers. Residents have attacked with stones, solid items and molotov bombs police officers, who were there doing their duty. As a result of the attack five police officers from the HNF, Eagles and General Patrols were injured and were sent for medical assistance to the military hospital.”

Police also used tear gas to repel residents opposing the intervention. Some residents are reported to have been escorted to the police station. The situation has since calmed down and no further clashes have been recorded. 

“State police are urging residents to distance themselves from violence and not fall prey to provocations, as they will face legal consequences. Also, the State Police calls on the citizens present at the New Ring not to urge the residents to attack the Police forces and to avoid misinformation,” the police statement underlines.

President Ilir Meta sided with the residents. 

In a Facebook post, he says it is " today's repeated violence against New Ring residents who are protesting in defense of their homes and property is unacceptable. The arrogance in the face of the misery and trauma that has been inflicted on these families for months is intolerable,” the Head of State writes as he urged residents “to remain calm and not be subject to provocations and the parties to sit down immediately in dialogue.”

According to IKMT there are 33 objects that are expected to be demolished at this stage. For 21 of them the expropriation procedure has been applied while the rest are reported to have been disqualified from the possibility of legalization.

Tensions in this area of ​​the capital have continued since last year, when the first interventions to build the New Ring began. The project was halted after it was discovered that in one of the lots, the winning company DH Albania had forged the documents submitted in the competition. 

The authorities then undertook the project as they conducted a new tender.
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