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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsEthnic Greek Mayor Fredi Beleris Sentenced to 2 Years in Albanian Prison

Ethnic Greek Mayor Fredi Beleris Sentenced to 2 Years in Albanian Prison

Greek mayor Fredi Beleri has been sentenced to two years in prison by Albania court
Fredi Beleris. Credit: Facebook/Fredi Beleris

Ethnic Greek mayor Fredi Beleris has been sentenced by an Albanian court to two years in prison on vote-buying charges.

Greece had previously called on the Albanian government to drop the charges against Beleris and warned that it would block EU accession talks with the country over the case. Albania is a candidate member for negotiating full membership

Beleris has been detained since May of last year for alleged vote buying after being elected mayor of the predominantly ethnic Greek city of Himare (Χιμάρα) in Albania.

Albania’s government said it could do nothing while the case was in court, and the Special Court of Corruption and Organized Crime gave Beleris a two-year sentence today, Tuesday, March 5th.

Beleris was elected mayor of Himare, situated 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital, Tirana, but he was arrested before the vote for allegedly offering 40,000 Albanian leks (390 dollars at the time) to buy eight votes. The Greek politician came out on top in the election but could not be sworn in while under arrest.

Beleri’s lawyer, Geni Gjyzari, said the ruling was “political as the prime minister had ordered it,” adding that he would appeal, as reported by ABC News.

Beleris’ sentencing exacerbates Greece-Albania tensions

Greece’s foreign ministry said the court decision “increased the concern already expressed on the objectivity of the judicial process,” arguing that the sentence is “clearly disproportionate to the alleged offense.”

“The selective implementation of court rulings and the prejudging of court decisions do not conform with the rule of law,” a ministry statement said. “The Greek government will closely follow the case and hopes to see a fair and objective ruling at the appeal trial.”

In December, while he was in detention, Beleris’ request for special permission to be sworn in as mayor was rejected by the Albanian court of appeal. At this time, Greece also asserted its disapproval over Albania’s treatment of Beleris, accusing the country of violating the rule of law and Greek minority rights.

At the Berlin Process Summit that took place in Tirana in October, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis was unequivocal: “I want to emphasize my respect for the independence of the Albanian Judiciary and I have no desire to interfere in the way it operates. However, I want to stress that Fredi Beleris has the right to be sworn in as Mayor of Himare even if he is in custody,” Mitsotakis said.

Greece has already submitted a written statement that accompanied the European Council’s letter on the opening of negotiations with Albania, setting three basic conditions for promoting Tirana’s accession. These are the swearing-in of Beleris, his fair trial, and respect for the presumption of innocence.

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