Albania opposition calmly honors dead protesters

TIRANA Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:59pm EST

1 of 4. Edi Rama, Albania's leader of the opposition Socialist Party, pays his respects at a portrait of Ziver Veizi, one of three people who died in last week's deadly riots, during a march in Tirana January 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Arben Celi

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TIRANA (Reuters) - Some 100,000 supporters of Albania's opposition Socialist Party paid homage in silence to three men shot dead at an anti-government protest a week ago and dispersed calmly on Friday after a two-hour procession.

The silent march down the main street near the offices of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, scene of violent clashes last week, was led by relatives of the dead crying loudly, followed by Socialist leader Edi Rama.

Holding red roses and carnations and wearing mourning armbands, the silent participants, many in tears, laid flowers, touched the pictures of the dead protesters in front of the government building and lit candles along the curbstone.

Larger-than-life pictures of the three hung across the boulevard along the metal gate of the government's office near the spots on the pavement where they were shot and killed after shots rang out from the courtyard of the premier's office.

"Justice," was written in big letters below their pictures. Police, backed by Berisha, are refusing to execute arrest detention orders for six chiefs of the republican guardsmen for exceeding their authority in relation to the deaths.

The Socialists maintained security at the latest rally, which they said was attended by 200,000 supporters, after state police refused to secure it, deeming it a "threat to national security and public order."

With Mozart's Requiem playing and the mourning televised across the nation, supporters walked back in silence, taking off their armbands and lighting cigarettes.

Earlier, Rama asked for "respect and solidarity" for the police, saying they wanted to unite people, not divide them.

The demonstrators' deaths a week ago on Friday outside the main government building marked some of the worst social unrest since the late 1990s in the impoverished Balkan nation, a NATO member and applicant to join the European Union.

The European Union, the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sought to tone down the parties' increasingly confrontational rhetoric.

After Berisha canceled a rally by his supporters against violence, the EU and Washington also urged the Socialists to re-consider. Now that it has ended peacefully, both sides will be under strong international pressure to negotiate.

Albania's political scene has been tense since the end of the June 2009 parliamentary elections which Berisha's Democrats won by a small margin because the Socialists have failed to recognize the results.

Accusations that former Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta, whose Socialist Integration Movement party is the lynchpin of the ruling coalition, had asked for kickbacks from a minister brought calls for the government to quit over corruption.

(Editing by Adam Tanner and Philippa Fletcher)

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Comments (5)
jordea wrote:
How can Reuters trust this journalist?! Benet Koleka is the first cousin of the opposition leader, Edi Rama. How can he be objective?
Mr. Koleka are you not ashamed of talking about 100 000 protesters, when in fact there were only 6 000? Edi Rama was abandoned by the Albanian people! The 6 000 people attending yesterday’s demonstration were paid to participate. They were given 2000, 7000 leke, even 200 Euro and more.
Edi Rama lost the 2009 elections, which were free and fair ones, and certified by OSCE-ODHIR. But Rama has questioned the opinion of internationals, he wants, by all means, even violent ones, to become Prime Minister. This is why he organized and put into life the coup. He wants to come to power by violence and has openly defied the USA and the EU.

Jan 29, 2011 7:39am EST  --  Report as abuse
Dervishi wrote:
The parliamentary elections held in Albania in June 2009 were free and fair elections and they were certified by OSCE and ODIHR. The fact is that Edi Rama doesn’t accept the loss and wants to seize power by force. That’s what he attempted to do on January 21, when 200 – 300 men, trained, equipped and paid by Edi Rama besieged the Council of Ministers building, attacking for 5 hours the police with sticks, bricks, stones, Molotov cocktails and firearms as well.
What was Edi Rama doing meanwhile? Edi Rama, after ordering this attack stayed in a safe place giving instructions to his people on the ground. And a week later he mourns the three persons he himself killed.
This is not in the tradition of the Albanians. We all feel offended by his behavior, which of course must be the kind of behavior of a mentally disordered person.

Jan 29, 2011 8:58am EST  --  Report as abuse
eni61 wrote:
Hi people,
Once again, and Benet Koleka is doing over it several years, he is cheating using Reuters, a prestigious press agency, about what is happening in Albania, and precisely lying on the number of the Rama protesters on 28 january. There were no more than 5000 people. On 21 January there were more but a great number abandoned him. I was one of them. Now I want Benet to tell Rana not to play with the fire!
For those who do not know Benet Koleka I will tell you Benet is a close familiar of of Edi Rama, leader of the Socialist Party.

Jan 29, 2011 9:12am EST  --  Report as abuse
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