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News 30 Jan 17

Albanian Minister Says Attacking Corruption Got Him Fired

Justice Minister Ylli Manjani has accused Prime Minster Edi Rama and the government of firing him for speaking out about corruption and the scale of cannabis cultivation.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
The Albanian minister of Justice, Ylli Manjani in a press conference on Monday. Photo: LSA/Gent Shkullaku

Albania's Minister of Justice, Ylli Manjani - from the junior coalition party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI - has accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of sacking him for speaking out against corruption.

Rama's order sacking Manjani was published without argumentation on the Council of Minister website and accompanied by the proposal to appoint Petrit Vasili, also from the LSI, as his successor. President Bujar Nishani is expected to decree the changes.

Journalists asked Rama after a party meeting about the official reason for Manjani’s dismissal but he did not want to comment. Instead the vice-prime minister, Niko Peleshi, said Manjani’s comments at the press conference showed that this decision was right. "His outburst in the conference showed why he could not be in the government longer," he said.

The press office of Prime Minister Rama later sent BIRN the formal reason for his dismissal, saying it was aimed at “improvement of the quality of the government and the better coordination of the work with parliament, and other stakeholders in moving forward the judicial reform”.

Less than an hour that his removal was made public, Manjani held a press conference, slamming Rama and his ministers.

He claimed he was removed for speaking his mind in the media and accused Rama of dismissing him for exposing the government's misdeeds.

"I opposed an initiative of the ministry of Energy on road lighting since I found it corrupt, but the government passed it on the day that I was absent from the Council of Ministers," he noted.

He also said he had developed a hostile relationship with Rama and the government after declaring that the army needed to intervene to cleanse the territory of cannabis cultivation.

"The pressure on me become bigger when I spoke out as a concerned citizen over the cannabis cultivation sweeping the country," he said.

He said pressure on him also peaked when he sought the arrest of Klemend Balili, an Albanian businessman accused by Greece and other countries of financing a drug trafficking ring.

"I feel honored to be removed ... I cannot take the responsibilities for the wide spread of cannabis in the country and for the support that businesses have made from illegal activities," he said.

Manjani's removal from his post comes at a time when the rift between the two main parties directing the government has been growing. Other LSI ministers have openly accused high officials of Rama's Socialist Party of corruption.

The move also comes at a time when important judicial reforms are undergoing their start with the vetting of the judges and prosecutors.

 

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