Ethnic Greek mayor in Albania sentenced to two years for vote buying

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An Albanian court sentenced on Tuesday a mayor from the country’s Greek minority to two years in prison for buying votes, a ruling that is anticipated to exacerbate tensions with neighboring Greece.

Greece has urged Albania’s government to cease the proceedings against Fredi Beleri, claiming that the case may jeopardise Albania’s candidacy to join the European Union.

Beleri’s lawyer, Geni Gjyzari stated that the verdict, in its nature, was “political as the prime minister had ordered it,” further adding that he would appeal.

Beleri’s statement

“With a fake criminal record, no evidence, no other witnesses except one who was bribed by the police, with an ‘appointed’ judge, in a glass cage without communication with my lawyer, the Albanian court sentenced me today to two years in prison,” Fredi Beleri said in a statement.

Fredi Beleri
Fredi Beleri sits in an Albanian court. Photo: Ekathimerini.

“My crime is that we, Himarans, want to be masters of our ancestral land. My crime is that my countrymen elected me mayor against the plans of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama,” Beleri continued and vowed to continue his fight to clear his name.

“Sooner or later, I will find justice. I have as much patience as it takes to get to the bottom of this case.”

Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry responds

The two-year jail sentence lowered on ethnic Greek and Himare mayor-elect Fredi Beleri “intensifies concerns expressed in relation to how objective the process was,” the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry (MFA) said on Tuesday.

Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry protests sentencing of Fredi Beleri
Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry protests sentencing of Fredi Beleri. Photo: amna.gr.

The Ministry further stated that the final sentence is disproportionate to the gravity of the so-called felony.

Such a “selective implementation of judicial decisions and the predetermined court decision does not agree with the rule of law,” the MFA said. It added that the Greek government is “closely monitoring the issue and looks forward to a just and objective decision in the appeal process.”

The Special Court on Corruption and Organised Crime also sentenced Beleri’s aide, Pantelis Kokavesis, to an 18-month suspended sentence.

Source: Ekathimerini and Amna.gr

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