- Supporters of Albania’s center-right opposition swarmed around the Parliament building Monday as lawmakers weighed stripping former Prime Minister Sali Berisha of prosecutorial immunity.
- Prosecutors sought the motion after Berisha failed to comply with orders to stay in Albania and report to them every two weeks.
- “We are and will remain freedom fighters up to the day of our victory, of firing away, overthrowing such a regime which is exterminating Albanians,” Berisha said after Monday’s protest, calling on demonstrators to reconvene later this week.
Supporters of Albania’s opposition Democratic Party protested against the government Monday while a parliamentary commission discussed whether to lift the immunity from prosecution of the party leader, former Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
Prosecutors asked lawmakers last week to strip Berisha of his parliamentary immunity because he did not comply with an order to report to them every two weeks and not travel abroad while he is being investigated for corruption.
Cordons of police officers surrounded the Parliament building Monday as the commission discussed the request to lift Berisha’s immunity. The protest ended peacefully after 80 minutes. Only a few flares were seen.
All six members of the immunity commission, including one from an opposition grouping, voted in favor of putting Berisha’s immunity case to a parliamentary vote on Thursday. Four lawmakers who support Berisha did not take part in the meeting. The full Parliament is expected to vote Thursday to allow prosecutors to put the former prime minister under arrest or house arrest.
On Thursday, the vote on Berisha’s immunity will be the first issue in the agenda.
At the end of Monday’s protest, Berisha called on his supporters to demonstrate again on Thursday and every following week in front of the Parliament.
“We are and will remain freedom fighters up to the day of our victory, of firing away, overthrowing such a regime which is exterminating Albanians,” he said.
Berisha, 79, was charged with corruption in October for allegedly abusing his post to help his son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, buy land in Tirana owned by both private citizens and defense ministry, and to build 17 apartment buildings on the property.
Berisha and Malltezi both have proclaimed their innocence, alleging the case was a political move by the ruling left-wing Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Berisha said he considered the prosecutors’ demands for him to report regularly to the authorities and to remain in Albania to be unconstitutional.
Socialists hold 74 of the 140 seats in Parliament, enough to pass most laws unaided. Since October, Democratic Party lawmakers have regularly disrupted voting sessions to protest what they say is the increasingly authoritarian rule of the Socialists.
Last month, they lit flares and piled up chairs in the middle of the hall the minute Rama took his seat to vote on next year’s budget.
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.
Berisha pledged to take the protest away from Parliament and into the streets.
“I call on each Albanian to consider their future, the country’s future. We are in a no-return battle,” he said before joining the hundreds of protesters outside the building Monday.
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.