Albania court convicts fugitive ex-spy chief

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An Albanian court convicted the country’s fugitive former intelligence chief Thursday of murder for the 1995 death of a suspect who was illegally detained for an alleged plot to murder Macedonia’s president.

The court, which tried Ilir Kumbaro in absentia, also sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The victim, businessman Remzi Hoxha, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia, was abducted by the secret police 17 years ago along with two other suspects for allegedly planning to kill then-Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov during a visit to Albania. The court said the three suspects were held illegally and tortured during questioning.

Kumbaro traveled to Britain in 1996 under a false identity, claiming to be a refugee from Kosovo. He has been missing for a year, after skipping an extradition hearing in London. Hoxha was never found and is presumed to have died in custody.

During the trial, the court heard that Hoxha, and fellow suspects Avdyl Loshaj and Ziso Kristopulli, were taken to a secret police facility in the Lezhe district 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. They were never formally charged of the alleged plot against Gligorov in neighboring Macedonia, and Loshaj and Kristopulli were released after being held for a week.

The victim’s son, Ardian Hoxha, said he would appeal the verdict, arguing that Albania had not done enough to bring the former spy chief to justice.

“The justice system has killed our father for a second time,” he said. “Victims of crimes are not protected here.”

Two former state security officers also faced lesser charges which were dropped by the court Thursday.

Kumbaro had headed the police’s intelligence division in the capital, Tirana, for three years until 1995, and traveled to Britain the following year.

According to London police, Kumbaro was granted political asylum in Britain under the false name Shaqa Shatri and was granted a British passport, before he was eventually discovered and sought for extradition by Albanian authorities.

He has been missing since failing to appear for the extradition hearing in London on Dec. 1.

Former Macedonian President Gligorov, who died in January aged 94, was seriously injured in a car bombing in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, in 1995. No one has been convicted of the attack, which was apparently not related to the alleged plot in Albania.

Original: http://news.yahoo.com/albania-court-convicts-fugitive-ex-spy-chief-185444769.html

Albania, Kosovo urge probe of prosecutor Del Ponte

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania and Kosovo have called for an independent investigation into former Hague Tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte for her “tendentious and illegal role” in the case against former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

The comments Sunday came days after the Hague-based tribunal cleared Haradinaj and two others of war crimes charges during a retrial. Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the U.N. court of charges of murdering Serbs during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence.

The Albanian government says it was “shocked” by a recent statement of the tribunal prosecutors that del Ponte laid the charges without enough proof. Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s office said Tirana would ask international institutions to launch an independent probe against her.

Haradinaj’s acquittal came at the end of the U.N. court’s first-ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of Haradinaj and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a “miscarriage of justice” because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that conviction was not retried, but he has served his sentence and was released with the others.

In a separate case and following the publication of a book from Del Ponte, the European Union has launched another investigation into allegations that a criminal network sold the organs of civilian captives in Kosovo during the war.

A 2010 Council of Europe report alleged that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other rebel commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers on Albania’s border with Kosovo, where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia. Kosovo’s population is predominantly ethnic Albanian.

Both Thaci and Albania have denied those allegations.

___

Nebi Qena contributed to this report from Pristina, Kosovo.

Original: http://news.yahoo.com/albania-kosovo-urge-probe-prosecutor-del-ponte-182734783.html

Albania marks independence with giant cake and quarrels

(Incorporates earlier GREECE-ALBANIA/VISIT story)

*

TIRANA, Nov 28 (Reuters) – The foreign minister of

neighbouring Greece boycotted festivities on Wednesday marking

100 years of Albania’s independence after its prime minister

hailed a town over the border as “Albanian lands”.

Reflecting the delicate nature of Balkan politics after the

wars that split Yugoslavia, the president of Macedonia also

stayed away after the car of his prime minister was hit with

eggs and its flag burned in Tirana during a visit last week.

Ethnic Albanians from across the region meanwhile celebrated

in the national colours of red and black with a 14 tonne cake

and bushy moustaches to honour the founding fathers.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s remarks were in a

text he sent to a museum on Tuesday evening to mark the 100th

anniversary of Albanian independence from Ottoman rule and

honour the founder of modern Albania, Ismail Qemali.

In the statement, he referred to “the Albania of all the

Albanian lands from Preveza to Presevo, Skopje to Podgorica”.

Preveza is part of the northern Greek province of Epirus,

where some ethnic Albanians lived before World War Two. Greece

is Albania’s second trading partner and its biggest foreign

investor. Both countries are now NATO members

Skopje is the capital of Macedonia and Podgorica the capital

of Montenegro, both bordering Albania. Presevo is in southern

Serbia close to the border with ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo.

“Such comments do not help in fostering a climate of

friendship, trust and good-neighbourly relations between the two

countries,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said, adding Foreign

Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had scrapped his trip over the

matter.

Berisha’s office sought to play down the spat, saying he was

referring to the “historical context of a 100 years ago” and

that did not “express any territorial claim to our neighbours in

the south, north or east”.

Former foreign minister Paskal Milo, a historian, also

sought to play down its impact, saying whoever heard Albanians

celebrating should not misinterpret their comments.

MOUSTACHES

Nationalists in Greece and Albania had long made claims on

their respective lands. But relations between the Balkan

neighbours have significantly improved since they signed a

friendship treaty in 1996.

Last month, however, Greece had to apologise to Albania for

placing its red flag depicting a black, double-headed eagle,

upside down during a visit by its foreign minister to Athens.

Albanians are by far the largest group of foreign workers in

Greece – estimated at up to 800,000 in a country of 11 million

people – and have been among the first to feel the hit from the

deep Greek economic crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo,

Macedonia and Montenegro partied along with Albanians in the

capital Tirana and the coastal town Vlore, where independence

was declared.

Some scooped chunks up of the giant cake with both hands and

tossed pieces to friends and into the air.

In Kosovo, some sported moustaches to mark the day.

“I have grown my moustache to respect the men who declared

independence in 1912 because most of them had moustache,” said

Kosovo Albanian Kreshnik Berisha in Pristina.

The small Balkan country on the shores of the Adriatic

turned into the battlefield for the belligerents of World War

One and only began functioning as a state in the early 1920s.

The self-proclaimed King Zog brought order and started

reforms but also led the country into the influence of Italy and

he fled shortly before the Italians occupied Albania during

World War Two.

Stalinist hardliner Enver Hoxha later established an

isolationist communist rule for more than four decades until

communism crumbled in 1990, causing an exodus of Albanians.

(Additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina and Karolina

Tagaris in Athens; Editing by Alison Williams)

Original: http://en-maktoob.news.yahoo.com/albania-marks-independence-giant-cake-quarrels-224014293–sector.html

Albania, Kosovo urge probe of prosecutor Del Ponte

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania and Kosovo have called for an independent investigation into former Hague Tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte for her “tendentious and illegal role” in the case against former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

The comments Sunday came days after the Hague-based tribunal cleared Haradinaj and two others of war crimes charges during a retrial. Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the U.N. court of charges of murdering Serbs during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence.

The Albanian government says it was “shocked” by a recent statement of the tribunal prosecutors that del Ponte laid the charges without enough proof. Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s office said Tirana would ask international institutions to launch an independent probe against her.

Haradinaj’s acquittal came at the end of the U.N. court’s first-ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of Haradinaj and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a “miscarriage of justice” because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that conviction was not retried, but he has served his sentence and was released with the others.

In a separate case and following the publication of a book from Del Ponte, the European Union has launched another investigation into allegations that a criminal network sold the organs of civilian captives in Kosovo during the war.

A 2010 Council of Europe report alleged that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other rebel commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers on Albania’s border with Kosovo, where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia. Kosovo’s population is predominantly ethnic Albanian.

Both Thaci and Albania have denied those allegations.

___

Nebi Qena contributed to this report from Pristina, Kosovo.

Original: http://news.yahoo.com/albania-kosovo-urge-probe-prosecutor-del-ponte-182734783.html

Albania to vote in June, EU watching closely

TIRANA (Reuters) – Albania’s president on Monday set its next parliamentary election for June 23 with Tirana under pressure to avoid a repeat of a contested 2009 vote that set back its bid to join the European Union.

The opposition Socialist Party, led by Edi Rama, challenged the result of the last election four years ago in protests that eventually ended in clashes with police. Four protesters were killed.

Rama will bid again to unseat Sali Berisha, leader of the ruling Democratic Party and Albania’s fiery prime minister for the past eight years.

There have been no recent opinion polls, but with the government under fire over corruption and weak rule of law, analysts expect the vote to be close.

In the last election, the Democratic Party took half of the 140 seats in parliament and clinched a slim majority with the support of the Socialist Integration Movement.

The EU says Albania must hold free and fair elections and improve democracy before it can become an official candidate for membership of the bloc. The Balkan state of 2.8 million people, one of the poorest in Europe, is already a member of NATO.

Both the EU and United States have been pressing Albania to overcome an atmosphere of intense political polarization between the Democrats and the Socialists that has slowed and sometimes paralyzed reforms.

Unlike most countries of the western Balkans, Albania has avoided recession, but the crisis in neighboring Greece and Italy – Albania’s main trading partners – has slowed growth and led to a fall in vital remittances from the large Albanian diaspora.

Albanians complain that economic growth has failed to reduce widespread poverty or improve social welfare.

Also on Monday, President Bujar Nishani sacked Prosecutor General Ina Rama and replaced her with Adriatik Lalla, a former prosecutor overseeing the wealth statements of civil servants.

The prime minister holds most power in Albania, while the president’s role is mainly ceremonial apart from his position as head of the armed forces and top council of justice.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Mark Heinrich)

Original: http://news.yahoo.com/albania-vote-june-eu-watching-closely-130147905–finance.html

Greek minister scraps Albania trip over PM’s territorial remark

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s foreign minister cancelled a trip to Albania on Wednesday after the neighboring country’s prime minister suggested a northwestern Greek town was “Albanian land”.

Nationalists in Greece and Albania had long made claims on their respective lands. But relations between the Balkan neighbors have significantly improved since they signed a friendship treaty in 1996.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s remarks were in a text he sent to a museum to mark the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence from Ottoman rule and honor the founder of modern Albania, Ismail Qemali.

In the statement, he referred to “the Albania of all the Albanian lands from Preveza to Presevo, Skopje to Podgorica.”

Preveza is part of the northern Greek province of Epirus, where some ethnic Albanians lived before World War Two, and Berisha’s remark drew the ire of Athens.

“Such comments do not help in fostering a climate of friendship, trust and good-neighborly relations between the two countries,” the foreign ministry said, adding Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had scrapped his trip over the matter.

Skopje is the capital of Macedonia and Podgorica the capital of Montenegro, both bordering Albania. Presevo is in southern Serbia close to the border with ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo.

Berisha’s office sought to play down the spat, saying he was referring to the “historical context of a 100 years ago” and that did not “express any territorial claim to our neighbors in the South, North or East.”

Both countries are now NATO members and Greece is Albania’s second trading partner and its biggest foreign investor.

Last month, however, Greece had to apologies to Albania for placing its red flag depicting a black, double-headed eagle, upside down during a visit by its foreign minister to Athens.

Albanians are by far the largest group of foreign workers in Greece – estimated at up to 800,000 in a country of 11 million people – and have been among the first to feel the hit from the deep Greek economic crisis.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris in Athens and Benet Koleka in Tirana; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Original: http://news.yahoo.com/greek-minister-scraps-albania-trip-over-pms-territorial-181432275.html

Albania gets new prosecutor after slip on corruption list

* Albania votes Adriatik Llalla as prosecutor general

* Previous prosecutor had stormy relationship with

government

* Albania slipped 18 positions in corruption survey

TIRANA, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Albania appointed a new prosecutor

general on Friday after its rankings in a world corruption index

showed it slipping further behind in the fight against

bribe-taking and related crimes.

The ruling Democratic Party voted in Adriatik Llalla to the

post, booting out incumbent Ina Rama who was given the job five

years ago but failed to live up to high expectations.

An ex-prosecutor, Llalla’s appointment came soon after

Transparency International said Albania ranked 113 out 176

countries in its corruption perception index, down 18 positions

from last year, and on a par with Ethiopia, Guatemala and Niger.

The opposition Socialist Party abstained from voting because

it feels President Bujar Nishani violated the constitution in

cutting short Rama’s mandate by five months.

An appellate court judge, Rama was elected for an indefinite

term five years ago but constitutional changes introduced a few

months afterwards limited her mandate to five years.

In his former post as inspector general, Llalla went after a

government minister and a lawmaker, but little came of it.

In remarks after his new appointment, he criticised some

prosecutors for siding with, rather than fighting, criminals.

“Prosecutors take decisions based on the law, they are

independent of crime and politics and free to take any decisions

dictated by the law and their inner convictions,” Llalla said.

Rama had threatened to complain to the Constitutional Court

about her sacking, but reports said she had changed her mind

mainly out of concern to protect her staff.

She tried to prosecute a government minister for alleged

embezzlement in connection with a road contract, but the case

collapsed, with some critics blaming lack of attention to

procedural rules for the failure.

(Reporting by Benet Koleka, Editing by Michael Roddy)

Original: http://en-maktoob.news.yahoo.com/albania-gets-prosecutor-slip-corruption-list-205126268–sector.html

Albania and Kosovo urge UN inquiry

Ramush Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the UN court of charges of murdering Serbs during Kosovo's 1998-99 war for independence Ramush Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the UN court of charges of murdering Serbs during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence

Albania and Kosovo have called for an independent investigation into former Hague Tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte for her “tendentious and illegal role” in the case against former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj.

The comments came days after the Hague-based tribunal cleared Mr Haradinaj and two others of war crimes charges during a retrial.

Mr Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the UN court of charges of murdering Serbs during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence.

The Albanian government said it was “shocked” by a recent statement of the tribunal prosecutors that Ms del Ponte laid the charges without enough proof.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s office said Tirana would ask international institutions to launch an independent probe against her.

Mr Haradinaj’s acquittal came at the end of the UN court’s first-ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of Mr Haradinaj and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a “miscarriage of justice” because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.

Mr Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that conviction was not retried, but he has served his sentence and was released with the others.

In a separate case and following the publication of a book from Ms Del Ponte, the European Union has launched another investigation into allegations that a criminal network sold the organs of civilian captives in Kosovo during the war.

A 2010 Council of Europe report alleged that Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci and other rebel commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centres on Albania’s border with Kosovo, where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia. Kosovo’s population is predominantly ethnic Albanian.

Both Mr Thaci and Albania have denied those allegations.

Press Association

Original: http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/world-news/albania-and-kosovo-urge-un-inquiry-3312559.html

Albania, Kosovo urge probe of prosecutor Del Ponte – Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

By By LLAZAR SEMINI
Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania (AP) – Albania and Kosovo have called for an independent investigation into former Hague Tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte for her “tendentious and illegal role” in the case against former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

The comments Sunday came days after the Hague-based tribunal cleared Haradinaj and two others of war crimes charges during a retrial. Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the U.N. court of charges of murdering Serbs during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence.

The Albanian government says it was “shocked” by a recent statement of the tribunal prosecutors that del Ponte laid the charges without enough proof. Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s office said Tirana would ask international institutions to launch an independent probe against her.

Haradinaj’s acquittal came at the end of the U.N. court’s first-ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of Haradinaj and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a “miscarriage of justice” because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that conviction was not retried, but he has served his sentence and was released with the others.

In a separate case and following the publication of a book from Del Ponte, the European Union has launched another investigation into allegations that a criminal network sold the organs of civilian captives in Kosovo during the war.

A 2010 Council of Europe report alleged that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other rebel commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers on Albania’s border with Kosovo, where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia. Kosovo’s population is predominantly ethnic Albanian.

Both Thaci and Albania have denied those allegations.

Nebi Qena contributed to this report from Pristina, Kosovo.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Original: http://www.whig.com/story/20239615/albania-kosovo-urge-probe-of-prosecutor-del-ponte

NATIONAL DAY OF ALBANIA TODAY

TODAY is the National Day of Albania which commemorates its independence from five centuries of Ottoman in 1912. This holiday is celebrated in the Albanian community by a popular observance known as “Flag Day.”

Albania borders Montenegro to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and Southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and a coast on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. Tirana is the capital and largest city. The population is below 3 million, a level which has remained stable for the last 10 years.

Agriculture forms the backbone of Albania’s economy which employs 58% of the labor force and contributes to around 21% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country is a leading producer of wheat, figs, corn, tobacco, and olives. Coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore are some of the country’s natural resources. Last year, Albania ranked first in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 countries to visit.

Albania is a member of various regional and international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Union for the Mediterranean.

We congratulate the people and government of the Republic of Albania led by Their Excellencies, President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Deputy Prime Minister Edmond Haxhinasto, Minister of Foreign Affairs Edmond Panariti, and its Consulate in the Philippines, headed by Consul Ceferino L. Benedicto, on the occasion of its National Day. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!

Original: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/national-day-albania-today-091634151.html