Opposition supporters clash with police in Albania

Opposition supporters wave Albanian Flags as they take part in an anti-government rally outside the prime minister's office in capital Tirana, Albania, on Saturday, Feb.16, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Opposition supporters clash with police in Albania

  • Protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama

TIRANA, ALBANIA: Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters clashed with police Saturday at an anti-government rally protesting what they claim is a corrupt and inefficient Cabinet. The protesters demanded that the government resign and an early election be held.
Protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. They destroyed the main door of the government building in Tirana, the capital, and broke an artwork on the side of the building but could not get inside.
Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters. The Health Ministry said 15 people were injured, including seven policemen.
One poster read "This is the end of the thieves," while another showed a picture of Rama's face made to resemble that of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Protesters shouted "Rama go!" and blew vuvuzelas.
The rally was organized by the center-right Democratic Party. In an interview with The Associated Press before the rally, Democrats leader Lulzim Basha said his supporters want the government to resign, a transitional Cabinet to be put into place and an early election held.
"(We need) to restore democracy through a parliament that is elected by the will of people and not the money or the threats of criminals," he said.
After five hours, Basha ended the rally pledging that the "popular uprising will continue until the overturn of this system." He called for another protest on Thursday.
This year Albania, a NATO member since 2009, hopes to get the European Union's approval to launch full membership negotiations. Fighting corruption and organized crime are some of the EU's main priorities for Albania, which has seen corruption across the political spectrum.
U.S., EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe denounced the violence Saturday on the government building and called on political parties "to take all necessary steps to ensure that the situation becomes peaceful and constructive."
Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj urged political leaders to distance themselves from the violence. President Ilir Meta also called for restraint, saying that "citizens should be free to protest, and all the institutions should be respected."
Rama on Saturday was meeting with citizens in the southwestern port of Vlora in an apparent campaign stop ahead of Albania's municipal election in June.
On his Twitter page, Rama apologized to German artist Carsten Holler, who created mushroom sculpture on the building that was damaged.


France’s Nicolas Sarkozy loses bid to avoid influence peddling trial

Updated 20 sec ago
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France’s Nicolas Sarkozy loses bid to avoid influence peddling trial

  • Sarkozy is accused of offering to help a judge win promotion
  • Sarkozy’s lawyers have previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers

PARIS: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial for influence peddling after the country's highest court rejected his final bid to have the case thrown out, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Sarkozy is accused of offering to help a judge win promotion in return for leaked information about a separate inquiry. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The case came about after investigators used phone-taps to examine allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi funded Sarkozy’s successful campaign for the presidency in 2007.
As they eavesdropped on his calls, the investigators began to suspect the former president had offered the judge promotion in return for information on another investigation involving allegations Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for the same campaign.
Sarkozy’s lawyers have previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers and went on a “fishing expedition” by tapping his conversations between September 2013 and March 2014, breaching lawyer-client privilege.
He was cleared over the Bettencourt allegations.
On Wednesday, his defence team said the use in this case of wiretapped remarks gleaned in relation to a different investigation contravened a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
"These legal issues are still relevant," Sarkozy lawyer Jacqueline Laffont said. "It will be for the court to decide whether a French court can override a decision of the European Court of Human Rights."
Wednesday's ruling that the trial proceed came from the 'Cour de Cassation', which decides whether an earlier decision by an appeals court conforms with French law.