Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday confirmed that relations with neighboring Albania, an EU candidate state, have been negatively affected by the Beleri affair.

Imprisoned Himare mayor-elect Fredi Beleri was found guilty by a first instance Albanian anti-corruption court last week of vote-buying. He was immediately handed down an unprecedented two-year sentence in a judicial process critics have labelled a “sham trial”.

Beleri has bitterly denied the charges against him and directly accused Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama of orchestrating his arrest last May on trumped up charges, forged documents and false witnesses – days before he was elected as the mayor of the coastal Albanian municipality by the thinnest of margins.

File photo of Himare mayor-elect Fredi Beleri.

Fielding a question during a wide-ranging in-studio interview on a morning news program aired by the Skai TV station, Mitsotakis said the case has definitely affected bilateral relations.

“Of course we’ve talked about this issue. We’ve expressed our strong reservations, not only about the fact that Fredi Beleri wasn’t given the opportunity to take the oath of office while he was in remand, but now – taking into account the court’s verdict – over whether this trial was actually fair. We will continue to be insistent. There’s no final decision, as this was a first instance verdict,” Mitsotakis said, while confirming that the case has negatively influenced bilateral ties.

“It’s not something we wanted, and I hope, I still hope, that this issue can be resolved.”

In an unrelated issue, asked whether his administration prefers “Trump of Biden”, in reference to the expected “rematch” in November between incumbent US President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump, Mitsotakis replied:

“Whoever the American people select; we’ll respect their choice, obviously. Greek-American relations are currently so strong that I don’t believe they will deviate from the tracks they’re running on, regardless of who is elected president.”