Albanian court extends detention of ethnic Greek mayor despite pressure from Athens
Greek government lodged formal protest with Albanian Foreign Ministry after detention of ethnic Greek minority candidate running for mayor in Himare, Albania
An Albanian court in the capital city of Tirana extended the pre-trial detention of the ethnic Greek mayor of the southern city Himare despite pressure for his release from Athens, according to media reports on Thursday.
Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek minority candidate who was running for mayor in Himare, an Albania coastal city with a large Greek population, was detained by police on May 11 on charges of trying to buy votes ahead of local elections in Albania, which took place on May 14 and resulted in Beleri's election as mayor.
The appeal court decided to extend the detention of Fredi Beleri and to release his associate Pantelis Kokavesis, who was being tried in the same case, citing health problems, said Greek public broadcaster ERT.
His arrest strained the relationship between Tirana and Athens.
The Greek government lodged a formal protest with the Albanian Foreign Ministry.
On May 15, then-Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis threatened to block Albania’s EU bid over the detention, stressing that his country respects the rights of ethnic minorities.
In response, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama accused neighboring Greece of meddling in the country's internal affairs.
On Wednesday, Greek Foreign Minister Vasilis Kaskarelis raised the issue with his Albanian counterpart Olta Xacka during the meeting that took place on the sidelines of the informal meeting of the NATO foreign ministers in Oslo.
Hours after the Albanian court's decision, Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Athens keeps the issue “very high” on its priorities.
"We will continue to inform and sensitize the international community and, in particular, European partners, as Albania is a candidate country for accession to the EU," it said.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.