Albanian prosecutors on Tuesday asked lawmakers to strip former Prime Minister Sali Berisha of his parliamentary immunity because he did not abide by their previous decision to report regularly while he is being investigated for corruption.
Prosecutors of the country’s Special Court on Corruption and Organized Crime, which was created in 2019 to handle high-level graft cases, asked for Parliament’s clearance to put Berisha under arrest or house arrest.
Berisha, 79, was charged with corruption in October. Prosecutors alleged that his son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, had exploited his prime minister’s post to buy land in Tirana owned by both private citizens and the country’s Defense Ministry, and build 17 apartment buildings on the property.
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Berisha and Malltezi say they are innocent and that the case is politically motivated by the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Berisha considered as “unconstitutional” the prosecutors’ request that he had to report to them every two weeks and could not travel abroad. But he agreed with the request to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity.
“It is a normal request and I will read it in detail. But in principle I agree 100%. There should be no protection for lawmakers different from (common) citizens,” he said.
The Parliament’s immunity council will consider the case next Monday, after which lawmakers will vote on it. The Parliament usually holds sessions on Monday and Thursday.
Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013, and as president from 1992-1997. He was reelected as a lawmaker for the Democratic Party in the 2021 parliamentary elections.
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The United States government in May 2021 and the United Kingdom in July 2022 barred Berisha and close family members from entering their countries because of alleged involvement in corruption. They said Berisha used “his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members” and interfered in the judiciary.
Since then, Berisha’s main opposition Democratic Party has been in turmoil with different factions fighting for the party’s leadership and legal registration.
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Fighting corruption has been post-communist Albania’s Achilles’ heel, strongly affecting the country’s democratic, economic and social development.
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