Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Monday again appeared to pre-empt a future court verdict against the mayor-elect of Himare, ethnic Greek Fredi Beleri, who has been jailed since April on vote-buying charges.
The ethnic Greek community in the Adriatic country and EU candidate-state, along with the government in Athens, has been infuriated by the continued remand of Beleri, repeated trial delays and refusal by judicial officials in Albania to allow him out on bail for even a day in order to be sworn-in.
Speaking with members of a special negotiating team tasked with navigating the country’s course towards the Union, said he’s unwilling to back down over the country’s accession course, as “there is no possible compromise, not that we don’t want it, but the justice system we want is more stubborn than we are.”
In touching specifically on the Beleri case and the objections now raised by Athens to Albania’s continued EU course over the former, Rama said “they unfairly blocked us (at the recent EU summit), but we’ll continue our work. I am certain that with our neighbors we will be able to jointly set the primary reasons for this issue. In no way do we dispute the significance that it holds for our neighbors, and for which we’re certainly willing to do whatever doesn’t affect the process for consolidating our new justice system. There is no chance of a compromise here, not because we don’t want to, but because the justice system we want is more stubborn than we are.”
In previous statements, Rama said he doesn’t believe the issue should affect his country’s accession course.
A three-justice court in Tirana last week rejected a motion by Beleri for a temporary release in order to be sworn-in.
He won the Himare mayoral race 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.
Beleri has vehemently denied the charges and has pointed to a political conspiracy, all the way up to the Albanian prime minister’s office to keep him out of town hall and his defeated opponent in office as a caretaker.
Himare is a coastal municipality in southwest Albania that hosts a historic and sizable ethnic Greek community.