Opposition rally kicks off with tensions

Opposition rally kicks off with tensions

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – The opposition’s national anti-governmental protest asking for Prime Minister Edi Rama’s withdrawal and a provisional cabinet started off amid tensions on Saturday morning, although no one was ultimately seriously hurt. Thousands of citizens from different parts

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Police search homes of judges who gave 25 years of prison to man who killed four policemen

Police search homes of judges who gave 25 years of prison to man who killed four policemen

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – In Albania, special police forces searched the apartments of three out of five members of the Serious Crimes Appeals judging body, who last week accepted to shorten a life sentence for Dritan Dajti to 25 years

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Opposition calls national anti-government rally

Opposition calls national anti-government rally

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – The country’s main opposition Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration have called a national anti-government rally on Saturday, Feb. 16, demanding a transitional government cabinet before the municipal elections in June. “Citizens will gather in

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Unjust work dismissals cost gov’t over 10 million euros during 2018

Unjust work dismissals cost gov’t over 10 million euros during 2018

TIRANA, Feb. 14 – State budget data analyzed by a number of media and economy experts during the first two months of the new year show that during 2018, 1,7 billion Albanian Lek were spent to pay court bills for

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Gov’t officials condemn 25-year-sentence for man who shot 4 policemen

Gov’t officials condemn 25-year-sentence for man who shot 4 policemen

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – Two Albanian government ministers reacted strongly against a  of Serious Crimes Court of Appeals verdict concerning the 25-year jail sentence against Dritan Dajti, after the latter killed four policemen. Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj said in a

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Joint Albanian-Italian operation cracks down on four criminal networks

Joint Albanian-Italian operation cracks down on four criminal networks

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – A joint police operation between Albanian and Italian authorities on Tuesday led to the crackdown of four criminal groups suspected of drug and arms trafficking from Albania towards Italy. At least 20 people, of whom six

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Police officer arrested over sexually harassing a minor in Shkodra

Police officer arrested over sexually harassing a minor in Shkodra

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – The Shkodra Police arrested on Monday evening a Malesia e Madhe police officer over suspicions of sexual harassment of a minor. Through a brief statement, the police announced that Berhan Bajrakurti, a specialist in the Gruemire

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Catholic priest calls on Albania doctors and med students to stop collective exodus

Catholic priest calls on Albania doctors and med students to stop collective exodus

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – Catholic Priest Angelo Massafra called on Albanian doctors and medical students not to leave the country in hoards looking for a better future for themselves during February 11 – the World Day of the Sick. “Doctors

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Albanian Embassy to Belgrade website hacked due to violation of national symbols

Albanian Embassy to Belgrade website hacked due to violation of national symbols

TIRANA, Feb. 11 – The website of the Albanian Embassy to Serbia was hacked by Anonymous Albania on Monday because the website was displaying a white two-headed eagle on a red background instead of the constitutional black one. The Albanian

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Tirana citizens protest against female violence in silent rally

Tirana citizens protest against female violence in silent rally

TIRANA, Feb. 11 – A silent rally in support of Albania’s physically and emotionally violated girls and women took place in Tirana on Sunday. The protest was fueled by the case of the group rape against one underage girl in

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - The opposition's national anti-governmental protest asking for Prime Minister Edi Rama's withdrawal and a provisional cabinet started off amid tensions on Saturday morning, although no one was ultimately seriously hurt.

Thousands of citizens from different parts of the country gathered in the square in front of the prime minister's office for the biggest protest Tirana has so far seen. 

According to the organizers, the protest is not expected to have speeches of political leaders, but only from citizens, representatives of the layers and different categories of the society.

The first few minutes started amid tensions. 

The protesters broke the line of policemen and gathered at its entrance with big numbers. However, while attempting to get into the door they were repelled from the security forces inside by using water pumps and tear gas.

The Feb. 16 anti-government rally was called since over a month ago, while opposition leader Lulzim Basha has been touring Albania during this time with the intention of inviting frustrated citizens to join.

The opposition is supporting the idea of having a transitional government that will prepare the country for free and fair elections. Basha insists that chances for political solution have been exhausted and that the time for words is over. 

Police, on its part, has repeatedly reiterated concerns about the risk of involvement among protesters of criminals, noting even it had information “that certain persons, with criminal records or previously convicted of serious criminal offenses, have been prepared to exert violence in the protest.” 

For this reason, it exercised many controls at Tirana's entry points, especially on vehicles coming from the districts.

Representatives of the international community in Tirana have called for the avoidance of violence, calling it unacceptable, and underlining the importance of a peaceful protest.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - In Albania, special police forces searched the apartments of three out of five members of the Serious Crimes Appeals judging body, who last week accepted to shorten a life sentence for Dritan Dajti to 25 years in prison, although he is charged with killing four policemen ten years ago.

In the Vlora apartment of appeals judge Skender Damini, police found 17 thousand euros and some bullets, accompanying him for explanations at the Police Directorate in Tirana.

Three out of five members of the ruling body decided to sentence him with 25 years, accepting a shorter trial which does not come to power automatically. 

The decision caused much controversy, with Justice Minister Etilda Gjonaj speaking of an “unacceptable scandal of intolerable size” and addressed the High Judicial Council to request disciplinary investigation and dismissal of judges.

Yesterday, the Prosecution of Serious Crimes opened criminal proceedings for allegations of corruption, against judges Skender Damini, Petrit Aliaj and Aleks Nikolla, while the Serious Crimes Court ordered the search of their apartments.

Special police forces showed their search warrants with the court order on Friday morning in the judges’ apartments in Vlora and Lezha. 

The search ended around noon, while police reported that thousands of euros and ammunition were found in a judge's apartment.

During the search in Damini’s apartment, police found 17,000 euros and some bullets. 

The judge was escorted to Tirana’s police directorate, for interrogation. It is reported he stated that the money is his son’s and that he has the necessary documents to prove this, while the cartridges belong to a revolver that he once had with permission. 

While his personal mobile was held for expertise, the judge was set free from the police station a few hours after he was interrogated, while no security measures have been taken against any of the judges.

Many judges have refused to deal with the Dritan Dajti case in the past ten years, while over 100 lawyers have refused to defend him. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 15 - The country’s main opposition Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration have called a national anti-government rally on Saturday, Feb. 16, demanding a transitional government cabinet before the municipal elections in June.

“Citizens will gather in the biggest protest this country has known in the last thirty years to dictate, through unison, what we haven’t been able to dictate from this parliament hall, the separation of crime from politics, the end of legitimizing theft from Albanians’ pockets,” Basha said on Thursday during parliament.

Two days before the announced rally, planned to take place in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Tirana police denied the DP’s request to rally infinitely. 

The DP headquarters asked for permission to rally without specifying a finish time to the authorities, but this request was denied.

Another problem in the request for permission submitted by the DP are the coordinates. The DP requested permission to protest on the four streets surrounding the Prime Minister's Office, the "Dëshmorët e Kombit" Blvd. at the square in front of the Prime Minister's Office, the garden at the Pyramid and the "Ismail Qemali" street next to the Prime Minister's Office.

However, according to the DP, the Tirana police has refused permission on the coordinates requested by the DP with the argument that the space between the Prime Minister's Office, at the "Ismail Qemali" street will be the territory where the police and the Guard of the Republic officers will be deployed.

“The right to peacefully assemble, petition the government, and protest for positive change are hallmarks of a free and healthy democratic society. It is a right exercised often in the United States. However, this right must be exercised peacefully. Violence against people or property is unacceptable. We call upon all involved in Saturday’s protest, and all of Albania’s political leaders, to reject violence and ensure the demonstrations are conducted peacefully and constructively,” came the US Embassy’s to Tirana reaction to the announced protest and the tensions that are already risen. 

Meanwhile, the EU delegation to Tirana also said they expect the opposition to respect norms of conduct.

“We expect a peaceful demonstration,not to turn into violence.This is a call to all involved parties, it's important for all to be constructive. Albania needs to focus on the tasks ahead and all sides should cooperate. Speak without violence and your message will be heard,” said EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca.

Meanwhile, the government has warned it will be running more road police checks on Saturday and employ a number of police forces to make sure nothing happens, while the Minister for Parliamentary Relations Elisa Spiropali has accused the opposition of wanting to burn down Tirana. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 14 - State budget data analyzed by a number of media and economy experts during the first two months of the new year show that during 2018, 1,7 billion Albanian Lek were spent to pay court bills for unjust work dismissals.

This equals to approximately 13 million euros, as Tirana Times has also previously reported.

The state budget spent nearly 2,700 payments over 2018 to pay the court compensations for unfair dismissals from central or local public administration.

Bills classified as "expenditure on executing judicial decisions about work dismissals" have consumed tens of thousands of euros in recent years, initially due to massive changes in public administration following the arrival of the Socialist government and the ruling Socialist Movement for Integration in 2013 and later as a result of changes in local government in 2015, as well as the passing of the SMI as an opposition party in 2017.

Available data from 2014 and onwards show that in total, taxpayers have repaid 11.6 billion ALL (about 93 million euros) to repay unjust work dismissals.
In 2016 expenditures for this reason reached 1.7 billion ALL . The expenditures of 2015 and 2014 respectively reached 3.1billion ALL and 3.3 billion ALL.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance is the biggest cause of unfair dismissals, mainly due to the functioning of the two main state institutions, the General Directorate of Taxation and the General Directorate of Customs.

During 2018, this ministry was forced to pay 439 million ALL for unjust dismissals, compared to the 370 million ALL spent in 2017. However, data for 2018 also include the expenses of the former Ministry of Economic Cooperation, Trade and Entrepreneurship, which joined the Ministry of Finance after the 2017 elections.

The Ministry of Environment, which went from belonging to SMI to the SP in 2017, added unpaid vacation costs to 186 million ALL in 2018, as opposed to 109 million in 2017. A large part of the bills of this ministry come from a so-called "Reform" undertaken after the 2013 elections when the forest inspectorate was dissolved and the environmental inspectorate was set up, which led to the dismissal of former inspectors and the appointment of new inspectors.

The Ministry of Health, which was also restructured by absorbing the former Ministry of Welfare, is the third largest payer with 186 million ALL in 2018, followed by the Ministry of Justice with 128 million ALL.
Another public institution with many such bills is the Municipality of Tirana, which during the past year paid 122 million ALL.
The judicial process in Albania lasts for years and the bills paid in 2018 partly belong to the layoffs from the current government and partly to layoffs in the past years, from the Democratic Party. 

The costs reached for unfair work dismissals have reach such a worrisome point for the government, a new category was created in 2014 for this kind of expenditure.

Based on this data, 2019 is expected to serve a new bill that can add to the state budget’s burden an additional five to seven million euros - a burden that Albanian taxpayers have to pay.

There are times when one day a new director can make 100 layoffs, making collective dismissals the heaviest burden for everyone.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-13 16:24:40
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 13 - Two Albanian government ministers reacted strongly against a  of Serious Crimes Court of Appeals verdict concerning the 25-year jail sentence against Dritan Dajti, after the latter killed four policemen.

Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj said in a public statement that the decision to condemn Dajti to 25 years of imprisonment is an assassination of justice and that the police will have no peace until that decision is revoked.

“The last 48 hours have been emotionally heavy for family members of the officers who fell on duty on August 7, 2009, for the State Police and all Albanian citizens, as a result of a criminal decision of some judges who fully deserve to join their customers behind bars,” Lleshaj said.

According to Lleshaj, the decision comes as a crime from people with legal and constitutional immunity. 

“The ‘Force of Law’ operation has been put into action to address with all the force of law the clear, brutal and scandalous assassination toward our country’s  justice, towards the countless sacrifices and spilled blood of hundreds State Police officers over the last three decades,” Lleshaj said.

The justice ministry also called the court decision "an unacceptable scandal of intolerable proportions,” while Minister Etilda Gjonaj said the government will respond to this by addressing the High Judicial Council.

The justice minister will request the HJC to take disciplinary measures against the judges for this unprecedented case of violations in opposition to any standard of shortened sentences and criminal processes.

The Serious Crimes Appeals Court annulled the decision to sentence Dajti with life imprisonment two days earlier and accepted the appeal for a shortened trial, setting the sentence to 25 years of prison.

Dajti is accused of killing four policemen in 2009, Fatos Xhani, Sajmir Duckollari, Altin Dizdari and Kastriot Feskaj, but said he shot the gun to defend himself without knowing they were policemen.

The Supreme Court returned the file for retrial to the Appellate for a procedural violation after Dajti was sentenced to life imprisonment, but the shortened sentence was accepted and out of the 25 years of imprisonment he is estimated to have paid off nearly 15 years of the measure after 10 years of judicial investigations on the case.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-13 13:46:53
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 13 - A joint police operation between Albanian and Italian authorities on Tuesday led to the crackdown of four criminal groups suspected of drug and arms trafficking from Albania towards Italy. 

At least 20 people, of whom six Italians and 14 Albanians were arrested, while 7 other Albanians are being wanted by the police. 

Most members belonging to these organizations - five italians and five albanians - were arrested in Italy, where 100 of the Lecce Guardi di Finanza and anti-organized crime operatives were engaged in the operation. 

Meanwhile, six Albanians were arrested in the country and three others - two Italians and one Albanian have long been in prison here. 

In fact, investigations coordinated by the Italian Anti-mafia Directorate and the Albanian Serious Crimes Prosecution have been launched for two years now in both countries.

In Italy, the activity of groups that had operational bases in the province of Lecce and extended to at least six other areas from the south to the north of this country was uncovered. In Albania, investigations have been conducted in several major cities, mainly in Durres, Vlora and Lezha.

During these two years, criminal organizations have taken several hits.

According to an official announcement, Italy counts 26 operations that have led to the arrest of 31 people, while 90 others were investigated in a free state. 

In total, over eight tons of marijuana, ten pounds of cocaine, weapons and ammunition were caught. 

Albania has seen at least three cases during 2017 where about 2.3 tons of marijuana and three sailing vessels were caught aiming to be used for trafficking narcotics to Italy, while 3 people have been arrested.

The heads of the four organizations were mainly Albanians who ordered the drugs from Albania to further distribute them to the Italian territory. In this context, Italian investigators also said on Tuesday that Albanian criminal organizations have strengthened their activity in Italy, so that even domestic and mafia organizations are going to them to be supplied with drugs by handing in prepaid cash.

Details of the operation were simultaneously made public in Italy and Tirana, through a joint press conference. How to tell the weight of this operation, in Italy, at the press conference was the National Prosecutor of Italian Antimafia Federico Cafiero De Raho.

“It is an operation of great importance, as we have acted in strong cooperation with the Albanian authorities. Organizations relied on elements of Italian criminality, allowing them to import drugs into the Italian and European markets, which is evidence of the danger of these Albanian organizations,” said National Prosecutor of Italian Antimafia Federico Cafiero De Raho.

The Chief Prosecutor of Serious Crimes Prosecution, Donika Prela, also pointed out the activity of the joint investigative team which followed the case.

“From the moment of creation to date, this team can be considered as a success story not only with regard to the use of all procedural legal investigative techniques, but in particular of new investigation techniques,” the head of the Albanian Serious Crimes Prosecution Donika Prela said.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-12 16:23:24
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - The Shkodra Police arrested on Monday evening a Malesia e Madhe police officer over suspicions of sexual harassment of a minor. 

Through a brief statement, the police announced that Berhan Bajrakurti, a specialist in the Gruemire area, was arrested following the social media publication of a video in which he appears naked, while virtually communicating with the minor. 

Although the police has not given any further details on the case, the online media portal which made it public in the first place has allegated the video was sent to a 15-year-old girl from Gruemire whom Bajrakurti aimed to abuse.

The same online media portal wrote that the girl’s mother, after finding out about the abuse, tried unsuccessfully to report the incident both at the Malesia e Madhe and at the Shkodra police departments. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the police department said there has been no denunciation for the case, asked by the Voice of America.

Responding to the event, the opposition Democratic Party brought to attention on Monday that "Policeman Bajrakurti was removed from the ranks of the police by the law on decriminalization, but he was returned to duty by the most important political officials of the Socialist Party in Malesia e Madhe.” 

Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj described the arrested policeman as a “pervert” and added that "a pervert can serve as a flag for perverted politicians, but can not stain anybody except himself and those who rejoice in his existence. Support for the Albanian State Police” in a twitter statement.

The case reported on Monday in Malesi e Madhe for persecution and sexual harassment against a 15-year-old minor comes only a few days after the denunciation of sexual violence against a 13-year-old girl in Kavaja by eight of her fellow pupils - an event that shook the public opinion and prompted protests both in Tirana and Shkodra. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-12 06:57:56
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - Catholic Priest Angelo Massafra called on Albanian doctors and medical students not to leave the country in hoards looking for a better future for themselves during February 11 - the World Day of the Sick. 

“Doctors to stay in Albania, not just think about money. If the best doctors leave Albania, who will be left to cure us, to cure you. It is not right,” Massafra said during Holy Mass, in Shkodra’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral. 

Albania has been facing an exodus of doctors in the past few years, making the country’s healthcare system, already facing one of world’s lowest number of doctors, even more vulnerable.

More than 500 doctors are reported to have left the country in the past few years, mainly heading for Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which has eased work procedures for medical staff coming from the Western Balkans as it tries to fill the huge gaps in its healthcare system.

The current numbers represent about a tenth of total number of doctors in Albania, but what’s worse is that an overwhelming majority of medical staff working at the country’s public and private hospitals would be willing to leave the country if they were offered an opportunity.

Monthly bonuses of up to €2,000 a month for working outside Tirana and in remote areas suffering shortages of specialty doctors since early 2018 have not been much appealing and facilities like the Dibra regional hospital, north of the country, continue redirecting their patients to Tirana - a difficult feat, especially during the snow-ridden winter. 

Albania currently has only 1.2 doctors per thousand residents, in one of the lowest coverage rates comparable only to war-torn countries.

The Balkan country has regularly lost medical staff since the early 1990s following the country’s transition to democracy and a market economy following decades of a hardline communist regime and a planned economy.

However, the brain drain has sharply picked up in the past five years following a relaxation in procedures by Germany due to its huge needs for medical staff, mainly nurses in homes for the elderly. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-11 19:06:34
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 11 - The website of the Albanian Embassy to Serbia was hacked by Anonymous Albania on Monday because the website was displaying a white two-headed eagle on a red background instead of the constitutional black one.

The Albanian foreign ministry’s decision to change the black two-headed eagle - also on display at the websites of the Albanian embassies to Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom - was reported as “unconstitutional” by opposition MPs during parliament on Thursday.

“The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania uses a white eagle on the national flag! Scandalous and shameful act and a grave insult to national symbols, as well as a flagrant violation of the Constitution and the law,” opposition MP Luan Rama wrote on Facebook, referring to Article 14, Act 2 and 3 of the constitution.

It is there said that "the national flag is red with a black two-headed eagle in its middle."

 

It is unclear what the purpose of the change is at a time when the foreign ministry is at a transitional phase where the foreign minister decreed by President Ilir Meta is Prime Minister Edi Rama, who delegated his competencies to deputy minister Gent Cakaj. 

 
                    [post_title] => Albanian Embassy to Belgrade website hacked due to violation of national symbols 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-11 09:22:05
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-11 08:22:05
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 11 - A silent rally in support of Albania’s physically and emotionally violated girls and women took place in Tirana on Sunday. 

The protest was fueled by the case of the group rape against one underage girl in Kavaja which shook public opinion last week, although protesters said this was just one of many cases. 

"Such acts of violence reveal the lack of preparation of state and social structures to protect victims of violence and to shed light on criminal events in time,” Altin Hazizaj claimed from the Center for the Protection of Children Rights.

The protests gathered hundreds of citizens - parents, university and high school students in particular. 

Protest participants claimed that hundreds other girls are endangered by physical and psychological violence in their homes and cities, but many hide the violence in fear of public ill-treatment and shaming.

Parents took their sons with them in the protest in sign of solidarity to girls and women.

Protesters gathered in front of the education ministry, displaying countless slogans and placards and then, carrying those slogans, marched through the main streets of Tirana to the police directorate. 

Independent observers and experts of the Albanian society claimed that what happened in Kavaja is a grave event in many respects. 

A 13-year-old girl was raped by some fellow students and minors in a Kavaja elementary school, but the event was kept a secret for two months by the perpetrators, who blackmailed the girl into using her for sex.

The story was eventually kept a secret for another week by the girl’s family and her school, until police intervened and arrested all the minors who got involved.

Hazizaj added that all parties involved do not possess the proper expertise or standard actions to uncover such serious criminal events without harming the victim.

According to him, all sides involved either politicize, produce inaccurate news or place the responsibility on third parties, underestimating the standard procedures for such events, starting from the gathering of evidence to protection and special attention to victims of violence.

The Kavaja incident was even debated in parliament last Thursday, when Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj and opposition MPs exchanged accusations - the opposition blamed the government of hiding this incident, while the government blamed the other side of improperly exposing it to the public and harming the victim. 

 
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            [post_date] => 2019-02-16 12:21:08
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - The opposition's national anti-governmental protest asking for Prime Minister Edi Rama's withdrawal and a provisional cabinet started off amid tensions on Saturday morning, although no one was ultimately seriously hurt.

Thousands of citizens from different parts of the country gathered in the square in front of the prime minister's office for the biggest protest Tirana has so far seen. 

According to the organizers, the protest is not expected to have speeches of political leaders, but only from citizens, representatives of the layers and different categories of the society.

The first few minutes started amid tensions. 

The protesters broke the line of policemen and gathered at its entrance with big numbers. However, while attempting to get into the door they were repelled from the security forces inside by using water pumps and tear gas.

The Feb. 16 anti-government rally was called since over a month ago, while opposition leader Lulzim Basha has been touring Albania during this time with the intention of inviting frustrated citizens to join.

The opposition is supporting the idea of having a transitional government that will prepare the country for free and fair elections. Basha insists that chances for political solution have been exhausted and that the time for words is over. 

Police, on its part, has repeatedly reiterated concerns about the risk of involvement among protesters of criminals, noting even it had information “that certain persons, with criminal records or previously convicted of serious criminal offenses, have been prepared to exert violence in the protest.” 

For this reason, it exercised many controls at Tirana's entry points, especially on vehicles coming from the districts.

Representatives of the international community in Tirana have called for the avoidance of violence, calling it unacceptable, and underlining the importance of a peaceful protest.

 
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