Imprisoned Himare mayor-elect Fredi Beleri on Tuesday was found guilty by an Albanian anti-corruption court of vote-buying and handed down an unprecedented two-year sentence, a conviction that’s expected to have regional and European reverberations and possibly disrupt the country’s EU accession course.

Beleri has bitterly denied the charges against him and directly accused Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama of orchestrating his arrest on trumped up charges, forged evidence and fake witnesses.

The sentence was handed down by a first instance court, meaning that an appeal is all but assured.

Another man accused as Beleri’s “accomplice” was also found guilty and handed down a three-year suspended sentence.

In a lengthy concluding statement taking to task the entire judicial process against him and the threats to Albania’s justice system as a whole, the 52-year-old Greek-Albanian politician charged that “At every instance of the investigation and trial the prosecution attempted to fabricate evidence to cover up police mistakes and blunders, so that the truth would not emerge …at every (court) session I have seen from here, in this dock, a trial that could have taken place once upon a time, but not in a European state in the year 2024, where we’re not officially in a dictatorship,” he underlined.