Albanian police sue opposition leader, say he urged violence

AP News
Posted: Feb 25, 2017 1:21 PM
Albanian police sue opposition leader, say he urged violence

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian police have sued the leader of the country's opposition Democratic Party for allegedly inciting calls for violence.

A police statement Saturday said Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha on Friday urged "citizens to violently react against state institutions," a crime that, if proven, carries up to a three-year jail sentence.

For a week, hundreds of Democrats have blocked the main boulevard in Tirana, the capital, saying they don't trust the left-wing government to hold the June 18 parliamentary election in a fair manner. They want a caretaker cabinet instead.

Police quoted Basha as saying "You want a fight? A fight it will be. Puncture the car tires, break the glasses. Time will come to drag (officials) at this square."

Basha told supporters on Saturday that he had been misunderstood, insisting that the party's protest was "grandiose, popular, democratic, total and peaceful" and not a "call for war" as police are suggesting.

He warned, however, that if provoked party members would "not stay like sheep but hit back strongly."

The opposition is also boycotting parliament, blocking the start of judicial reforms that will allow Albania to launch membership talks with the European Union.

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The reforms seek to root out bribery and ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics. Judicial corruption has plagued post-communist Albania, hampering its democratic processes.

Even though EU and U.S. experts were involved in drafting the judicial reforms, the Democrats fear the government will corrupt the bodies that will vet some 800 judges and prosecutors on their professional and personal integrity.

The Democrats have so far rejected calls to stop their boycott from the international community.