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Albania’s opposition protest corruption in Cabinet, demand PM resignation

Police officers stand guard while a fire burns in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office as supporters of the opposition attend an anti-government protest on Feb 21, 2024 in Tirana, Albania. Opposition protesters pelted the building with petrol bombs and rocks. (Photo by Reuters)

Anti-government protesters have attacked Albania's government building with petrol bombs and rocks, demanding the resignation of the prime minister amid rampant corruption.

Thousands of protesters late on Tuesday attacked the office of longtime Prime Minister Edi Rama, 59, accusing state officials of involvement in organized corruption.

"With this rally, we wanted to show Edi Rama that the opposition is united" to depose the man who has been the country's prime minister since 2013, said Flamur Noka, secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party.

The protest, organized by opposition leader and former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, took place on the 33rd anniversary of the fall of the Communist regime in Albania.

Berisha, who addressed the rally by video link from his home, has been under house arrest since late December after he refused to appear before the judiciary police in connection with a corruption probe.

"Today we launched our battle to depose the dictatorship of Edi Rama, who is a real danger," Berisha said, accusing the current head of government of corruption and carrying out a "political attack" against his family.

The Special Court Against Corruption and Organized Crime indicted Berisha in October, suspecting him of "passive corruption of senior official".

The investigation is linked to the alleged favoritism of his son-in-law in the privatization of a state-owned sports complex while Berisha was prime minister in 2008.

Berisha has rejected the accusations, labeling them "purely political". He accused Rama of instigating the probe.

The cardiologist and conservative politician served as the first democratically-elected president of Albania after the fall of Communism in the 1990s, and as the 32nd prime minister from 2005 to 2013, when he was replaced by Rama.

The small Muslim-majority nation located on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and an interior crossed by the Albanian Alps, is home to some 2.8mn people.

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