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Police crackdown on another Greek-Albanian drug trafficking network

Police crackdown on another Greek-Albanian drug trafficking network

TIRANA, July 16 – Greek police said on Monday they cracked down on Greek-Albanian networks transporting large quantities of marijuana from the Albanian border to Greek territory. According to official Greek police sources, the first case was recorded in the

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Lezha police sequester property tied to criminal activities

Lezha police sequester property tied to criminal activities

TIRANA, July 15 – Four luxury cars of the most expensive brands were sequestered by Lezha police on Sunday, while working on finding and sequestering four more.  The cars are allegedly owned by an Albanian citizen, extradited to Italy for

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Alleged Russian ISIS-related terrorist arrested in Albania

Alleged Russian ISIS-related terrorist arrested in Albania

TIRANA, July 14 – A Russian citizen was arrested in Albania on Friday under claims he was conducting terrorist activities.  The citizen, identified as R.M., is 34 years old and believed to be part of ISIS since 2013. In 2015,

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OSCE says anti-defamation law should protect, not threaten, media freedom

OSCE says anti-defamation law should protect, not threaten, media freedom

TIRANA, July 12 – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe assessed on Thursday afternoon that there has been significant improvements in the “anti-defamation” package presented by the Albanian government, but stressed that new legislation should respect international standards

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Court of Appeals rules former DP MP’s arrest was “illegal”

Court of Appeals rules former DP MP’s arrest was “illegal”

TIRANA, July 12 – Shkodra’s Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the arrest of former opposition Democratic Party MP Bardh Spahia on June, was illegal.   Spahia was arrested last month after the protest of a group of opposition supporters

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Words vs Actions, or what makes a government great

Words vs Actions, or what makes a government great

By Sidonja Manushi  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the Socialist government seems to have taken this quite at heart, as it relies much more on photo propaganda than it does on putting its money where

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Lezha prison workers catch drug-carrying drone inside prohibited area

Lezha prison workers catch drug-carrying drone inside prohibited area

TIRANA, July 7 – Albanian police announced on Sunday the first case of an attempt to deliver, with the help of drones, narcotic substances and cell phones inside prison premises. In its announcement, the police said prison workers had spotted

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ODIHR Mission: “Citizens’ interests were not taken into consideration during elections”

ODIHR Mission: “Citizens’ interests were not taken into consideration during elections”

TIRANA, July 1 – The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission in Albania stated on Monday that local elections were held without appreciating the citizens’ interests, while political clashes brought about legal uncertainty.  “In a climate of political deadlock and polarization, voters

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Meta says Electoral College decision has “no effect” on Presidential decree

Meta says Electoral College decision has “no effect” on Presidential decree

TIRANA, June 25 – President Ilir Meta issued a statement in response to the Electoral College backing up a Central Elections Commission decision not to deregister a political party from the June 30 local elections, a “no effect” decision.  The

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Electoral College: “Local elections will take place on June 30″

Electoral College: “Local elections will take place on June 30″

TIRANA, June 24 – Albania’s Electoral College supported on Monday the Central Election Commission’s (CEC), which decided the decree of President Ilir Meta cancelling June 30 as the local elections date is invalid and continued with the process preparation. The

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 16 - Greek police said on Monday they cracked down on Greek-Albanian networks transporting large quantities of marijuana from the Albanian border to Greek territory. According to official Greek police sources, the first case was recorded in the Attiki area, where police arrested seven people, among whom four Albanians, now accused as members of an organization that imports large quantities of marijuana from Albania.

Greek police said it has documented each member's activity in the field of traffic and drug distribution and seized dozens of kilograms of marijuana, monetary value and vehicles.

Meanwhile the second case, according to Greek police, was discovered near the Albanian border in the Filat area. Greek police said two citizens, one Albanian and one Greek, were caught trying to transport deep into Greek territory over 100 kilograms of marijuana inside a vehicle.  

Police said the vehicle belonged to a private travel company, while the narcotics would be transported to Athens. 

Greece continues to be the second destination of marijuana cultivated in Albania, after Italy. Large quantities of marijuana are transported from the Albanian-Greek land border and are then distributed mainly to the tourist islands and the Greek capital Athens.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 15 - Four luxury cars of the most expensive brands were sequestered by Lezha police on Sunday, while working on finding and sequestering four more. 

The cars are allegedly owned by an Albanian citizen, extradited to Italy for criminal offenses “Forging Documents” and “Structured Criminal Group.”

Police announced on Sunday that seized vehicles were purchased with income allegedly derived from the criminal activities of the extradited citizen, now in Italy.

Meanwhile, the police and the prosecution announced that they are working to fully document the illegal activity of this citizen as well as the identification of other persons involved in this criminal activity.

Kurbini, where expensive cars were seized, is known as one of the areas with high levels of emigration in Italy, but also for the high number of crimes committed by its citizens in the neighboring country.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 14 - A Russian citizen was arrested in Albania on Friday under claims he was conducting terrorist activities. 

The citizen, identified as R.M., is 34 years old and believed to be part of ISIS since 2013.

In 2015, he was declared wanted by the police. 

According to police, the arrested person had come as an illegal immigrant in Albania and was declared wanted by Interpol Moscow, as the Court of the Judicial District in Nadterechni, Chechnya Republic/Russia, by a criminal decision dated 08.04.2015, issued an arrest warrant for the citizen, for the criminal offense "Participation in a terrorist organization" provided by the Russian Penal Code.

“In June 2013, this citizen left Russia for Syria, where he joined an illegal armed group, the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS), being an active participant in fighting against government forces in Syria,” the Albanian police official announcement read. 

The first investigative materials carried out for this incident were referred to the Prosecutor's Office of the First Instance Court for Serious Crimes in Tirana for the criminal offense "Participation in Combating War In a Foreign State", provided by Article 265/a of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania. 

The Albanian police announcement also said the arrest was part of a several-month investigation, conducted with police and intelligence agencies international partners. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 12 - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe assessed on Thursday afternoon that there has been significant improvements in the “anti-defamation” package presented by the Albanian government, but stressed that new legislation should respect international standards in order not to interfere with freedom of expression.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media in Vienna, Harlem Désir, published a statement and analysis of the Draft Law on Media Services in Albania.

“The new legislation should respect the OSCE standards and commitments on freedom of expression and not negatively affect the media freedom in the country," Desir said.

This document estimates the abolition of the previous provisions on registration and blocking of the domain name, and the OSCE welcomed the fact that the changes affect only the media legislation and not the telecommunications legislation.

Désir stressed that blocking or suspension of online publications is considered an extreme measure of the state towards the right to freedom of expression, and is accepted by international standards only in cases of serious violations of other human rights or democratic principles, or other measures can not be implemented.

“My office has been involved in a lengthy consultation process during drafting of this legislation and constructive cooperation with the authorities made numerous improvements. However, further improvements in the law are still needed during parliamentary scrutiny,” he said.

Another positive element, according to the OSCE, is the abolition of the Compliance Committee's competence to determine moral, ethical or professional respect, as well as the abolition of AMA's powers of blocking the media in cases of “violations of the provisions of the law.”

Désir further stressed that “the Audiovisual Media Authority should not replace the independent judiciary or self-regulatory mechanisms for freedom of expression issues,” adding that this also applies to the blocking of content, fines for violations of the law and modalities of the right to respond.

The OSCE Representative noted that AMA's powers regarding "temporary blocking or restricting access to the Internet" could only be applied in three clear cases defined by law: child pornography; encouraging terrorist acts; and national security breaches and when such measures are considered necessary and proportionate, taking into account the existence of a near danger.

Albanian media circles expressed their concern over the government's unobserved approval of a number of legal amendments coming as anti-defamation packages. 

The government said it took this step to avoid false news, bringing regulation into online media services, and electronic publications.

Justice Minister Etilda Gjonaj said that Albanian society has recently been disturbed by the spread of fake news that affect the lives and dignity of family members.

"Online platforms are neither transparent nor registered, so laws are being reviewed to avoid misinformation and false news," said Gjonaj.

The government said that with the anti-libel package, it is interfering in the law on audio-visual media, electronic communications and value added tax, and in a child protection decision.

According to her, the intervention provides for swift action on complaints to protect the rights of citizens complaining of fake news and creating a registry with these online media as taxable persons.

But Besar Likmeta, a representative of the Balkan Investigative Reporters Network (BIRN), says Albania does not have massive fake news from the media.

“Our biggest problem is the fake news and propaganda spread by the government, which copies laws from countries with autocratic tendencies like Russia,” said Likmeta.

The government says portraying records serve transparency, avoidance of conflict of interest, inadequate influence of politicians, journalists' independence, and pluralism of the media.

But the representative of the Albanian Media Council, Koloreto Cukali, says the amendments first presented in December were described by international organizations as anti-democratic and it is unknown whether the government changed them or re-approved the same yesterday.

“The fact that it does not consult with media and media representatives shows that the government's goal is to shut down the media online, while the new austerity amendments do not affect the personal online media of its prime minister,” said Cukali.

The government adopted these legal amendments a few days after meeting a mission of seven international media freedom organizations, which reported a deterioration of the Albanian media's state and freedoms.

In their report they called for new measures for compulsory online media registration and the creation of a body to fine-tune and shut down online and foreign media without a court order as steps that contradict the best practices international self-regulation and can have a detrimental impact on freedom of expression and information and freedom of the press in Albania.

"At our meeting with the prime minister, he informed us that an updated version of the amendments project will be made public soon, after international criticism. He stated that in the next draft the possibility of closure would be eliminated and fines would be much lower than they were in the initial project. We welcome these changes and recall international human rights standards that states ‘states should not impose compulsory online media registration as a prerequisite for their work because this can have a very negative effect on media freedom,” said the organizations’ report. 




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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 12 - Shkodra’s Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the arrest of former opposition Democratic Party MP Bardh Spahia on June, was illegal.  

Spahia was arrested last month after the protest of a group of opposition supporters at Shkodra’s Commission of Electoral Administration Zone (KZAZ), located at the “Shejnaze Juka” High School, where he was accused of opposing police officers and damaging election materials.

Spahia was further accused by the police of “destroying property with fire,” “contradiction of police officer,” “threatening one’s duty,” and "disobedience to police orders regarding public safety.” 

Three days after the arrest, Shkodra’s First Instance Court sentenced Bardhi to house arrest, but the Court of Appeals changed this security measure on Thursday into “obligation to appear in front of the court.”

Five more people were arrested for damaging voting material’s at Shkodra’s KZAZ, while 14 other protesters were declared wanted by the police. 

Shkodra was one of the municipalities that recognized President Ilir Meta’s decision to cancel June 30 as the local elections’ date due to their illegitimacy in context of the opposition’s complete withdrawal from the parliament and refusal to participate into what it calls “rigged elections.” 

In this context, Shkodra DP Mayor Voltana Ademi has publicly announced after the local elections took place on June 30 - amind low voter turnout and many irregularities counted - that she would not be “handing in” the municipality to Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. 

Spahia lawyers described his arrest as political, while claiming they would seek compensation for the period spent in detention. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-07-11 18:07:33
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                    [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the Socialist government seems to have taken this quite at heart, as it relies much more on photo propaganda than it does on putting its money where its mouth is.

The examples are, of course, endless, but two will suffice in this column. 

Once, maybe twice a year, when celebrating national holidays in particular, the Albanian and Kosovo governments hold joint meetings, usually to “strengthen cooperation in practical and beneficial fields such as trade and economy, telecommunication, border controls and security.” These meetings are characterized by flashy red colors and a lot of national symbols, state representatives (from both sides) shaking hands and speaking about the historic and traditional ties between them, which will surely be translated in similar economic and executive ties. 

It’s all fun and games, until one opens the newspaper - those still reporting independently and freely - and realizes not only that Albania is far from being Kosovo’s number one economic partner, but also that maybe ten percent of the content and promises of these joint meetings are feasible and applicable. 

The cherry on top, however, always comes when there are international meetings and summits involved, because then hiding behind photos becomes increasingly difficult, as facts speak for themselves. 

Take for example this year’s Western Balkans Summit, held in Poland’s Poznan. The pictures of Rama being present and, even friendly, with European and regional leaders are all there, and they speak of a leader who is willing to share his neighbors’ experiences and learn from the summit’s hosts alike, a friend of economic growth and democratic development.

It makes one a tad uncomfortable, then, to learn that Albania did not benefit any of the seven, 700 million euro infrastructure projects approved during the summit for the WB. Meanwhile, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were awarded three projects in the fields of transport and natural gas extraction, Kosovo was awarded assistance to finalize its railroad project and Serbia, already working on its integration process after having opened dialogue with the EU, will be a new interconnection line. 

Maybe Albania would have also benefited financial aid if it had attended the summit prepared and with a valid project, instead of playing the old marketing game - in politics, looks only get you that far. Maybe it would also help if the government actually took EU and EC advise and stopped granting important construction projects to Public-Private-Partnership contracts, where the private sector is usually represented by shady companies that have little experience in the field, but still manage to win without any competition. 

Well, these are just some thoughts after all. But, nine times out of ten, if your actions don’t live up to your words (or your pictures), then you don’t really have anything to say. 

 
                    [post_title] => Words vs Actions, or what makes a government great 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-07-07 17:57:20
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 7 - Albanian police announced on Sunday the first case of an attempt to deliver, with the help of drones, narcotic substances and cell phones inside prison premises.

In its announcement, the police said prison workers had spotted a drone flying within the Shenkolli prison’s prohibited area, approximately 10 kilometers from the city of Lezha. Police forces managed to block the drone in the second outer prison district. During investigation of the object 7 packs on narcotics and three plastic bags were found in the drone’s body, wrapped inside a plastic bag.  

Police arrested three people in relation to this case, all caught inside a car about 1 km away from the prison. During the car’s control,  the drone bag and remote control were found, as well as three additional cell phones.

Those arrested are aged between 25-28, residents of Malesia e Madhe and Shkodra. They are accused by the prosecution for the criminal offenses "Manufacturing and sale of narcotics" and “the introduction or possession of prohibited items in the institution of execution of the imprisonment decisions, remaining in tentative.”

Recent years have seen numerous cases of attempts to introduce drugs and cell phones inside the prison. In March this year, six employees of this prison were suspended from duty for non-compliance with security regulations, which enabled prisoners' family members to put into prison narcotics through food.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-07-02 10:19:28
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 1 - The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission in Albania stated on Monday that local elections were held without appreciating the citizens' interests, while political clashes brought about legal uncertainty. 

"In a climate of political deadlock and polarization, voters did not have the opportunity to choose between some political opportunities. The opposition decided not to participate, while the government decided to hold elections without the opposition,” said the ODIHR Mission.

According to the statement, the opposition parties' calls to boycott the controversial election and interpretations of the presidential decrees undermined public confidence in the process.

Election day was generally quiet, although Socialist Party observers dominated polling stations.

“The political environment has been polarized and antagonistic since February, when the DP and the opposition withdrew from parliament, and held a series of protests demanding government resignation and early elections by a caretaker government,” said Ambassador Odri Glover, the Head of the ODIHR mission.

In nearly half of the municipalities, the socialist candidates did not face any opponents.

Voters were kept note by political party observers, and were not allowed to calmly vote out of  fear of punishment.

Voters expressed fears that even participation or lack thereof in the polls exposed their party preferences.

A full report will be issued by ODIHR after two months, including recommendations for improving the electoral processes in Albania.

 
                    [post_title] => ODIHR Mission: “Citizens’ interests were not taken into consideration during elections” 
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                    [ID] => 142349
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                    [post_date] => 2019-06-25 10:31:23
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-25 08:31:23
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 25 - President Ilir Meta issued a statement in response to the Electoral College backing up a Central Elections Commission decision not to deregister a political party from the June 30 local elections, a “no effect” decision. 

The Electoral College was interpreted as recognizing June 30 as the local elections date, despite Meta’s latest decree canceling the elections due to a resigned opposition which has been protesting and calling for Prime Minister Edi Rama’s removal since February - a process Meta has said would be “undemocratic.”

Meta said on Tuesday that “the only institution deciding on the election date is the office of the President,” and that only the Constitutional Court can pass a verdict on a presidential decree. 

He further added the decision was an “intra-party decision that has no effect on his decree,” considering the Electoral College is incomplete with only one judge currently vetted and a CEC dominated by Socialist Party members. 

Meta restated his call to all parties, the government and the opposition to reflect on the political situation and reach an agreement on a new date for the local elections in order for all the political parties to participate.

The President warned that if the Socialist Party insists on holding “internal party elections” on June 30, it would stifle the EU ambitions of Albania for years to come. 

“No foreign ambassador would ever tell you this, but even if the elections that no longer legally exist were held the European future of Albania and opening of the negotiations would have an unknown future for a very long time. Such solutions do not fulfill any minimal standard of the Copenhagen criteria but Albania would be even convicted by the European Court of Human Rights. Let me be clear, I did not cancel the elections in any embassy, but in Albania,” Meta said. 

On Sunday, Meta issued another statement, calling the parliament’s start of procedures to dismiss him from office after he signed a decree that cancelled June 30 as the local elections date a “fake process, blindly oriented politically.”

The arguments on whether elections will be held on June 30 and Meta will keep his office began when Meta issued the decree canceling the elections, to which the Socialist majority responded by starting procedures to dismiss him from office, although the country is currently lacking a functional Constitutional Court. 

 
                    [post_title] => Meta says Electoral College decision has “no effect” on Presidential decree 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-06-24 17:17:22
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-24 15:17:22
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 24 - Albania’s Electoral College supported on Monday the Central Election Commission’s (CEC), which decided the decree of President Ilir Meta cancelling June 30 as the local elections date is invalid and continued with the process preparation.

The college was involved by the National Unity Party (PUK), as it asked to be removed from running in the elections per Meta’s cancelation decree, but the CEC rejected its request.

By backing the CEC’s decision regarding the PUK request to be removed from the electoral race, the college virtually recognized June 30 as the local elections’ date. 

The legal arguments upon which the college reached Monday's decision have not been disclosed, but are expected to be disclosed in the coming days when the college’s argumentative decision is published.

The Albanian opposition said the college doesn’t have the authority to assess the president's decree, which, according to it, can only be assessed by the Constitutional Court, which is out of function for the moment. For its part, the Socialist Party is referring to a 2017 decision of the Constitutional Court College, which, according to it, assesses the president's decree as an individual administrative act.

In a reaction which followed the college's decision, President spokesman Teddy Blushi said that according to him, Monday’s developments do not constitute "a surprise from the next long-orchestrated sketch.” 

The Electoral College body that made this decision consisted of judges Tomor Skreli, Ridvan Hado, Lindita Sinanaj, Artur Malaj and Shkëlqim Mustafa.

“On the one hand, the CEC says there will be elections, while the President says there won’t. Our party and our electorate came to an absurd situation. It looks like we were fighting windmills. We do not want to participate and we want the National Unity Party to be removed from the ballot paper,” head of the PUK Idajet Beqiri said during Monday’s session.

Meanwhile, Albanian-American organization VATRA called on political parties to sit and talk in order to offer people a long-term solution that can secure not only democratic standards of the country, but also a peace and social unification.

Through a statement, the Pan-Albanian Federation of Americans expresses concern over the situation in Albania, which it considers to be unprecedented and says it is deeply painful that even after nearly three decades of pluralism, some deep problems related to electoral processes still remain, although interference in the process is completely condemnable. 

Civil conflict, which is taking ground day by day, should not be allowed, and the government has the primary responsibility to find ways to quench it. The sharpening of political disagreement unfortunately accompanies large-scale social divisions, which undermine the European objectives of the country,” the statement said.

VATRA urged the parties to sit on the negotiating table, hoping that the process will be serious and not merely transitory, and at the same time expresses regret over the loss of time, which, according to her, is taken from Albania and its people. 

 
                    [post_title] => Electoral College: "Local elections will take place on June 30"
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            [ID] => 142689
            [post_author] => 281
            [post_date] => 2019-07-16 14:06:04
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-16 12:06:04
            [post_content] => TIRANA, July 16 - Greek police said on Monday they cracked down on Greek-Albanian networks transporting large quantities of marijuana from the Albanian border to Greek territory. According to official Greek police sources, the first case was recorded in the Attiki area, where police arrested seven people, among whom four Albanians, now accused as members of an organization that imports large quantities of marijuana from Albania.

Greek police said it has documented each member's activity in the field of traffic and drug distribution and seized dozens of kilograms of marijuana, monetary value and vehicles.

Meanwhile the second case, according to Greek police, was discovered near the Albanian border in the Filat area. Greek police said two citizens, one Albanian and one Greek, were caught trying to transport deep into Greek territory over 100 kilograms of marijuana inside a vehicle.  

Police said the vehicle belonged to a private travel company, while the narcotics would be transported to Athens. 

Greece continues to be the second destination of marijuana cultivated in Albania, after Italy. Large quantities of marijuana are transported from the Albanian-Greek land border and are then distributed mainly to the tourist islands and the Greek capital Athens.
            [post_title] => Police crackdown on another Greek-Albanian drug trafficking network 
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