Former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha. EPA/ARMANDO BABANI


Albania’s ex-leader swears revenge for house arrest


Albania’s former prime minister Sali Berisha has sworn revenge on sitting Prime Minister Edi Rama over his house arrest, which began on December 30.

“We are here today to swear … that Edi Rama with his criminal group, will very soon get what they deserve,” Berisha declared from the balcony of his Tirana apartment, where supporters had gathered outside.

His statements went against a court order barring him from talking to people other than the family members who live with him.

The incident is prompting outrage from the nation’s Conservative opposition.

In a press release sent to Brussels Signal, Berisha’s Democratic Party denounced the arrest and corruption investigation as a “political decision to silence the opposition”.

“It is considered by many as a step … towards autocracy and one-party rule [under Rama and his Socialist Party].

“Albania is on its way on becoming [another] Belarus in the midst of Europe, under the watch of the international community, and at the risk of falling under Russian influences”, the statement added.

Berisha was one of the leading figures in the collapse of Albania’s communist regime, which became known as one of the most brutal in Eastern Europe under the rule of late former prime minister Enver Hoxha.

Berisha’s own leadership of Albania, as President in the 1990s and later as Prime Minister, was marred by accusations of human rights abuses, ties to the Albanian Mafia and endemic corruption.

Both the US and UK have barred him from entering their countries over these allegations.

Berisha currently stands accused of having manipulated the privatisation of Tirana’s Partizani football grounds to the benefit of his son-in-law.

The Democratic Party claims the accusations are baseless.

“During the three years of investigation, the prosecutors found no evidence of any violation, no fact of any breach of law and no witness statements regarding Berisha, his son in law, or any of the employees who have worked in this case,” the party’s press release said.

Some commentators, such as Fron Nahzi writing for Balkan Insight, welcomed the arrest of Berisha.

Corruption is an endemic problem for Albania with many emigrants citing it as the main reason for leaving the country.

It has also been one of the principal reasons that Albania’s attempts to join the European Union have been repeatedly vetoed.

Along with all the other Western Balkan countries, Albania is an EU candidate country.

There is still concern that the country’s anti-corruption moves are one-sided and politically motivated on behalf of Rama’s ruling Socialist Party.

That has led to growing political polarisation.

Last Autumn saw Berisha’s Democratic Party MPs lighting flares and rioting in the Albanian Parliament, then jumping in through the windows when they were banned from the Chamber.