Rama apologizes for decorating communist regime's 'torturer' prosecutor

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 18, 2015 11:40

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  • Prime minister says decoration was an oversight, not an intentional attempt to rehabilitate Shyqyri Coku

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TIRANA, Dec. 17 – In a rare public apology, Prime Minister Edi Rama has expressed regret for decorating an infamous political prosecutor of the communist regime who had violently interrogated two leading dissidents.

“I feel obligated today ask for forgiveness for the understandable shock about the medals given to the torturers,” Rama said during a visit this week in Shkodra, the northwestern Albanian city known for its anti-communist resistance.

There was fury in many circles in Albania when it became public that the prosecutor of the late Father Zef Pllumbi, a Catholic priest, and Professor Sami Repishti, a leading Albanian American anti-communist dissident, had been give the Medal of Gratitude by the Albanian Ministry of Defense.

Rama’s apology was not unconditional, however, as he tried to shift at least some of the blame on his political rivals.

The prime minister said the name of the prosecutor, Shyqyri Coku, had been in a default list of WWII veterans approved in the 1990s when the opposition Democrats were in power and the default decorations of the list had been an oversight not an intentional attempt to rehabilitate the man who received the medals.

As many political prosecutors under communism, Coku and others had been partisans during WWII and as such had received special financial treatment and default decorations even after the fall of communism, officials explained.

Rrepishti, who escaped from communist Albania in 1959 and led a group of Albanian anti-communist activists in the U.S., told an Albanian newspaper, Panorama, that Coku had been a major in the feared Sigurimi secret police until 1990 and had a history of violence as an interrogator.

“He [Coku] beat up any detainee he felt like it,” Repishti told the newspaper. “He had an evil nature.”

Albanian politicians see any public apology as a sign of weakness and rarely apologize even when faced with tremendous public pressure.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 18, 2015 11:40