Albanian police chief quits, Interpol officers arrested

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania’s chief of police resigned and two Albanian Interpol officials were arrested on Tuesday after it emerged that an extradition request issued by Belgium for an Albanian lawmaker belonging to the ruling coalition had been suppressed.

It marked the latest twist in a scandal that has embroiled Albania’s political class, from murder allegations to charges of false testimony and now accusations of a cover-up.

The case has become a test of the Socialist-led government’s resolve to impose the rule of law as it seeks integration with the European Union.

Police detained two officials of Interpol’s Tirana office on suspicion of hiding two requests from Belgium in January for the handover of Mark Frroku, a member of the small Christian Democratic Party that is part of the ruling coalition.

Prosecutors declined to release details of the Belgian warrant to a parliamentary panel, but a copy leaked to media said Frroku was accused of premeditated murder.

Frroku, who denies any wrongdoing, is already under house arrest on charges that he and another ruling party lawmaker concocted murder accusations against the speaker of parliament, also a member of the government.

Police chief Artan Didi resigned, saying he took ultimate responsibility for the suppression of the Belgian warrant.

“This oversight is unacceptable for the prestige of the state police that I lead, so I resign because I lacked the capacity to prevent it from happening,” Didi said.

Quizzed about the Belgian allegations by a parliamentary panel, Frroku said: “Mark Frroku has not killed anybody, has not colluded with anybody in killing anyone on this earthly sphere.

“Let the Belgian authorities prove I was in Belgium at the time. I was in Albania. I shall answer to the judiciary, the voters and the public,” he said.

Editing by Matt Robinson and Robin Pomeroy