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News 25 Oct 17

Albanian Parliament Blocks Ex-Minister’s Drug Arrest

A majority of MPs voted to reject the Prosecution Office for Serious Crimes’ request to arrest former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri over his alleged involvement in drug trafficking while in office.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Albanian MP Saimir Tahiri during a plenary session on Wednesday. Photo: LSA

A total of 75 MPs in the Albanian parliament on Wednesday voted against the prosecution’s request to arrest former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, arguing there is not enough evidence, with 60 voting in favour.

Prosecutors argued on Friday during a session of the Parliament's Council for Regulations, Mandates and Immunities that they have reasonable suspicion that Tahiri was involved in drug trafficking while he was a minister, aiding a smuggling ring directed by his cousins.

 Albanian PM slates reporters over Tahiri case

After the parliamentary session at which the majority of MPs rejected the prosecution request for Tahiri’s arrest, PM Edi Rama slammed journalists, calling them uninformed.

A question about Tahiri’s immunity from prosecution angered Rama: “Firstly, is a shame for all of you and for all those like you that you have not understood what the process was, with these kinds of questions without any sense,” he said.

"It is your misfortune that you don't read and do not even understand what you read, and don't want to listen what it is all about," he added.
His words drew sharp reactions on social media with numerous journalists demanding an apology from the Albanian PM.

 

Ruling majority MPs and the opposition were bitterly split over the prosecutors' request for Tahiri’s arrest.

At Wednesday’s plenary session on the issue, the ruling Socialist Party MP, Ulsi Manja, argued that there was not enough evidence to say that Tahiri is connected to the criminal business run by his distant cousins, the Habilaj brothers.

But opposition Democratic Party, MP, Enkelejd Alibeaj insisted that the prosecution had all the necessary indications that an arrest was the right course of action, accusing the ruling majority of politically supporting Tahiri.

Former minister Tahiri, who is still an MP, opened the plenary session with a short speech, emphasising that he would understand any decision that his colleagues took, and that he will offer himself up for investigation over the case.

"I'm not waiting to find out the truth in parliament, I'm going to find it in front of the judiciary and [Albania’s] citizens," he said.

Wednesday’s decision was anticipated by Prime Minister Edi Rama on Monday, when he said that he wholeheartedly supports a report by majority MPs that argued that the prosecution’s request was not based on sufficient evidence.

However, the parliament decided that Tahiri must not be permitted to leave the country, obliging him to present himself for questioning and allowing a search of his house.

Former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who is a Democratic Party MP, said the vote made this a black day for parliament.

“There has never been a more shameful decision that this one taken by parliament today,” Berisha said.

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