Greek EU lawmaker to remain in Albanian prison, raising tensions with Greece

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Fredi Beleri, the ethnic Greek mayor-elect of the Albanian town of Himare, will remain in prison after an Albanian court rejected his appeal on Tuesday.

Beleri was elected mayor of the coastal town on the Albanian riviera in May 2023, just two days after being arrested for vote-buying. Beleri defeated his opponent by 19 votes after allegedly offering 40,000 Albanian leks (€355 at the time) to buy eight votes.

In March 2024, he was sentenced to two years in prison. The rejection of appeal means he will have to stay there until mid-October.

Beleri was elected a Greek member of the European Parliament for the ruling New Democracy party in June 2024. He is the only MEP who was in prison when elected to the Parliament.

Fredi Beleri's request for release rejected again.
Fredi Beleri’s request for release rejected again.

On Wednesday, Beleri released a statement commenting on the court of appeal’s decision, calling it a “parody of justice.” Beleri said he expected the decision and that it had been planned by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

“The problem from now on will be Edi Rama’s, not mine. In the end, light always overcomes darkness,” Beleri said.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on Wednesday and said the court’s appeal decision “confirmed concerns over the level of the rule of law and the protection of minorities in Albania.”

The Foreign Ministry added that Greece had expressed concerns over many aspects of the case, including the violation of the presumption of innocence, the disproportionate sentence imposed by the court, as well as the denial of Beleri’s right to be sworn in.

The ministry reminded Albanian authorities of their obligation to allow Beleri to attend the sessions of the European Parliament. 

Source: Ekathimerini and Politico EU.

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