Albanian dissident sets himself on fire in compensation protest

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2012 12:52 PM
Albanian dissident sets himself on fire in compensation protest

TIRANA (Reuters) - An Albanian former political prisoner set himself on fire on Monday after the government ruled out talks on his demands for compensation for his suffering under communism.

Gjergj Ndreca, 51, was among 20 former dissidents imprisoned during the communist era who had been fasting for 17 days to draw attention to their demands. The government says they have already received compensation.

The unemployed father of four stepped away from the group of hunger strikers and tried to set himself on fire. Flames rose up from his trousers to his upper body, TV images showed.

Police said he had severe burns, and doctors said it would take longer to determine whether he would survive.

Ndreca was imprisoned for six years under the rule of Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha for trying to defect from isolated Albania. Hoxha ruled for four decades until his death in 1985, and the communist regime fell in the early 1990s.

Like many former dissidents, Ndreca backed the ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, but now says the government has mismanaged the country.

"We want a roof that does not let our children get wet when it rains. A job to live with dignity and to have the possibility of bringing bread and cheese home to our children," a statement published by the hunger strikers said.

Two former political prisoners threw sacks of flour at Berisha's car last month to protest against food shortages.

Berisha ruled out negotiations with the hunger strikers last week. He said the government had already passed laws to compensate former political prisoners.

"Absolutely every one of them has received the first installment. The law says the second one will be received by those over 65 years of age. Those who did not bring the files before 2010 will not get (compensation)," Berisha said.

Ndreca has previously punched a senior official from the Democratic Party, and tried to attack the finance minister.

(Reporting By Benet Koleka, Editing by Rosalind Russell)