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News 05 Jan 18

Albania Probes Protesters Who Tore Down Turkish Flag

Albanian police say they are investigating several dozen protesters who removed a Turkish flag from a Turkish-owned power plant in the north of the country.

Gjergj Erebara
BIRN
Tirana
Protesters removing the Turskish flag on December 31. Photo: Facebook.

Albanian police are probing protesters who took down a Turkish flag placed over the dam of a new hydro-power plant built by a Turkish company.

Organised through social media, protesters removed the flag on 31 December. Police then stopped some of them and took them to the nearby Rreshen town police station for holding an illegal protest, confronting police officers and destroying property.

Over the last few days, police have added more people to a list that will go for further investigation to regional prosecutors.

Police said the protesters gathered "at the dam of the Aydiner Hydropower Plant in an illegal protest against the symbol of the Turkish flag on the dam", adding that the protest become violent when "some persons damaged the flag".

A Facebook page organising the protest, called Mirdita, History and Actuality, said the Turkish flag deeply offended them.

This is not the first time that the display of Ottoman or Turkish symbols has caused anger in the Catholic north of Albania, where locals do not remember several centuries of Muslim Ottoman rule with nostalgia.

On 2015, Albania's Ministry of Culture decided to remove a historic plaque from the medieval castle of Lezha after an organisation called the Christian Democratic Front threatened to destroy it, after learning that it was dedicated to the 16-century Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Following the indictments filed by the police, Pjerin Ndreu, an MP from a nearby Catholic area, said the presence of the Turkish flag on the dam was "a provocation" to locals.

"Prosecutors should immediately dismiss the case," he said. "They [the Ottoman Turks] didn't manage to fly that flag [in this era] even under the 500-year-long yoke of the Ottoman Empire."

Catholics make up only about 10 per cent of the Albanian population but are mostly concentrated in north, where the Ottomans never managed to exert their authority in the mountainous Mirdita region owing to the fierce resistance of the locals.

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