Albanian prosecutors’ to question opposition figures over protest

Protesters break into the headquarters of the Democratic Party in Tirana, Albania, 08 January 2022. [EPA-EFE/Malton Dibra]

Tirana Prosecutors will question Democratic Party (PD) chairman Lulzim Basha and ex-Prime Minister Sali Berisha over the 8 January protest at the PD headquarters that saw supporters of the latter force their way into the building.

The protest on Saturday made international headlines as a battering ram, crowbars, and sledgehammers, along with tear gas were used to enter the property, following a months-long dispute over who should lead the party. Police dispersed the protest after an hour using tear gas and water cannons, hitting several journalists in the process.

Berisha attended the prosecutor’s office on Thursday while Basha will appear on Friday. Out of the 34 people arrested for involvement in the protests, all were released, and 28 must appear in court.

On Tuesday, PD leadership, under the guidance of Lulzim Basha, expelled Berisha and several other members from the Party. They argued that the events on Saturday had endangered the lives of PD members who were inside the building at the time, as well as the lives of those who had participated in the protest.

The dispute came after PD Chairman Lulzim Basha unilaterally dismissed Berisha from the parliamentary group following the latter’s destination as persona non grata by the US for “significant corruption”. Pressure from the US and even the EU led to Basha taking the decision the night before parliament resumed in September, without putting it for a party vote.

Berisha responded by vowing to take back the party’s leadership and oust Basha. Both sides have voted to expel the other, claiming they have the only legitimate rights.

The PD was Albania’s first democratic party following almost 50 years of communist rule, and today it is a member of the EPP Group.

But when asked by EURACTIV about the concerning split in the party and what this means for the future of Albania’s opposition, a spokesperson for EPP leader Donald Tusk said, “Unfortunately, the EPP President currently has a very full agenda and so is unavailable to answer these questions.”

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