A three-justice court in Tirana on Monday rejected a motion by jailed Himare mayor-elect Fredi Beleri for a temporary release from remand in order to be sworn-in.

Beleri has been indicted and jailed since late April on vote-buying charges related to the Himare municipal race, which he subsequently won by a razor-slim margin on April 25. However, first instance prosecutors have not brought the case before the special court for corruption and organized crime (called GJKKO, in its Albanian acronym), let alone won a conviction.

He has vehemently denied the charges and has pointed to a political conspiracy, all the way up to Albanian PM Edi Rama, to keep him out of town hall and his defeated opponent in office as a caretaker.

Beleri, an ethnic Greek in the coastal municipality that hosts a historic and sizable ethnic Greek community, once again accused Rama for keeping him in jail.

“…the prime minister and his gang are trivializing this process and pre-determining (judicial) decisions. Judges are afraid to speak out and take decisions; some resign, others delay. The (Albanian) Supreme Court begrudgingly provided a hearing date for this case. I have not asked for your vote, but from the people of Himare and they decided who will govern them, not the prime minister, not you,” he said, in a public statement during the hearing.

Supporters and relatives of Beleri had gathered outside the court.

The case has markedly strained relations between Athens and Edi Rama’s government in Tirana, with Greek officials openly citing an obstacle to Albania’s European Union accession course due to Beleri’s continued incarceration without trial and refusal by judicial officials to allow his swearing in.