Albania's ex-Prime Minister Berisha put under house arrest while investigated for corruption

An Albanian court has ordered house arrest for former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who leads the opposition Democratic Party and is being investigated for possible corruption

Llazar Semini
Saturday 30 December 2023 13:13

An Albanian court on Saturday ordered house arrest for former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who leads the opposition Democratic Party and is being investigated for possible corruption.

Judge Irena Gjoka of the First Instance Special Court on Corruption and Organized Crime, which covers cases involving senior officials and politicians, accepted prosecutors’ request to put Berisha, 79, under house arrest after he violated the previous restrictive measures of reporting every two weeks. He was also barred from traveling abroad.

His lawyer, Genc Gjokutaj, said the court also barred Berisha from communicating with people other than his family who lives with him, and considered the order a violation of law. Depriving Berisha of communication may become a wider political issue because he's the leader of the main opposition party.

Gjokutaj said he would appeal the court order.

It is not clear how police officers would monitor Berisha at his apartment in downtown Tirana.

Last week, parliament voted to strip Berisha of his legal immunity. Lawmakers loyal to Berisha tried to disrupt the session and boycotted the vote.

Berisha has criticized his investigation and arrest as political repression ordered by Prime Minister Edi Rama, and has warned of “powerful protests.”

In October, prosecutors publicly put Berisha under investigation for allegedly abusing his post to help his son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, privatize public land to build 17 apartment buildings. Prosecutors have yet to file formal charges in court and Berisha is still technically under investigation.

“Rama’s New Year postcard is the arrest and isolation of the opposition leader!” Berisha’s son Shkelzen posted on Facebook.

Prosecutors have said that if convicted, Berisha faces a prison sentence of up to 12 years.

Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013, and as president from 1992-1997. He was reelected as a lawmaker for the Democratic Party in the 2021 parliamentary elections.

The United States government in May 2021 and the United Kingdom in July 2022 barred Berisha and close family members from entering their countries because of alleged involvement in corruption.

Just days before the investigation into Berisha’s role in the land deal was revealed in October, opposition lawmakers have regularly disrupted sessions of parliament to protest the ruling Socialists’ refusal to create commissions to investigate alleged cases of corruption involving Rama and other top government officials.

The Socialists say the plans are not in line with constitutional requirements.

The disruptions are an obstacle to much-needed reforms at a time when the European Union has agreed to start the process of harmonizing Albanian laws with those of the EU as part of the Balkan country’s path toward full membership in the bloc.


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