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.


NZ leader Ardern vows to deny accused gunman notoriety he seeks

Updated 17 min 38 sec ago
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NZ leader Ardern vows to deny accused gunman notoriety he seeks

  • ‘You will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal.’
  • “He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” Ardern promised grieving Kiwis

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed Tuesday never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman as she opened a somber session of Parliament with an evocative “as salaam alaikum” message of peace to Muslims.

“He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” Ardern promised grieving Kiwis, while promising that she would deprive the man who slaughtered 50 people in Christchurch of the publicity he craved.

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety,” she told assembled lawmakers of the 28-year-old Australian accused of the slaughter.

“That is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”

“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them.”

Dressed in black, the 38-year-old leader opened her remarks in Parliament with the symbolism of the greeting uttered across the Islamic world.

“Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh” she said — ‘May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you too.’

She closed her address by noting that “on Friday, it will be a week since the attack, members of the Muslim community will gather for worship on that day. Let us acknowledge their grief as they do.”

Her comments came as dozens of relatives of the deceased began arriving from around the world ahead of expected funerals which have already been delayed far beyond the 24 hours after death usually observed under Islamic custom.

The slow process of identification and forensic documentation has so far made burials impossible, augmenting families’ grief.

Javed Dadabhai, who traveled from Auckland to help bury his cousin, said families and volunteers were told: “It is going to be a very slow process, a very thorough process.”

“Some families have been invited to have a look at their family members... the ones that are easiest to recognize, but we are talking about three or four.”

“The majority of people still have not had the opportunity to see their family members,” he told AFP.

In the wake of the mass shooting, Ardern has promised to reform New Zealand gun laws that allowed the gunman to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack on two Christchurch mosques, including semi-automatic rifles.

New Zealanders have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons, including John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton.

Hart said it was an easy decision for him to hand in his semi-automatic and tweeted that “on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse. We don’t need these in our country.”

The tweet drew a barrage of derogatory messages to his Facebook account —  most apparently from the US, where the pro-gun lobby is powerful and vociferous.

Hart deleted the messages but posted online: “A warm kia ora to all my new American Facebook friends.”

“I’m not familiar with your local customs, but I assume ‘Cuck’ is a traditional greeting,” he said of the insult, short for “cuckold” frequently used by far-right pundits.

Police said they did not have data available on the number of weapons handed in since Friday.