Second Albanian dissident torches self over payment row

TIRANA Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:57pm EDT

1 of 2. Lirjak Beko, a former Albanian political prisoner, is engulfed in flames after setting himself on fire in Tirana, in this still image taken from News 24 private TV station footage, October 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/News 24 Tv

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TIRANA (Reuters) - An Albanian former political prisoner set himself on fire on Wednesday, the second dissident to do so in two days after the government ruled out talks on their demands for compensation for suffering under communism.

Television footage showed Lirak Bejko, 47, pour petrol on himself and set his trousers on fire, before friends and policemen rushed to put out the flames with blankets.

Doctors said he was in critical condition, with third-degree burns to his limbs and face. Gjergj Ndreca, who set himself on fire on Monday, is also recovering in hospital.

Bejko, 47, and Ndreca are among 20 former dissidents imprisoned during the communist era who have been fasting for 19 days to draw attention to their demands.

The government says they have already received compensation. Prime Minister Sali Berisha said his party had granted former political prisoners $100 million in cash and privatization vouchers.

Skender Tufa, the head of the prisoners association, said the dissidents have agreed to carry out other "extreme protests", but did not give details.

"These are very grave acts, but...we have nothing else to lose. We the former prisoners are corpses walking around without dignity," he said.

(Reporting By Benet Koleka, Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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