Albanian communist-era dissident dies of burn wounds

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 02, 2012 2:08 PM
Albanian communist-era dissident dies of burn wounds

TIRANA (Reuters) - An Albanian communist-era dissident died on Friday of severe burns after he set himself on fire during a hunger strike calling for compensation for time spent in jail under communism.

Lirak Bejko, 47, set himself on fire three weeks ago, two days after another dissident - both of them among a group of 20 hunger strikers.

The dissidents said they had been paid only a fraction of the money owed to them under a 2007 law meant to compensate political prisoners held during the Stalinist regime of late Albanian leader Enver Hoxha.

Bejko had been sent to hospital in Bari, Italy, where he succumbed to complications from his injuries.

In his last recorded words, he told an interviewer in hospital that he wanted his fellow dissidents to continue their protest but not to follow his example.

"I love them very much. I do not want them to feel my pains. They are atrocious, it is like meat roasting," he said, his head bandaged and his voice rasping.

The hunger strikers ended their fast last month, some after collapsing and being taken to hospital. The government refused to talk to them, saying it saw their strike as politically-motivated.

Some 6,000 people were executed under Albania's communist regime, which collapsed in late 1990. Tens of thousands were jailed or sent to labour camps or internal exile.

(Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Myra MacDonald)