Opposition protesters hurl petrol bombs at Albania government building

  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

Police officers stand guard while a fire burns, as supporters of the opposition attend an anti-government protest in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office in Tirana, Albania, February 20, 2024. REUTERS/Florion Goga

TIRANA (Reuters) - Opposition protesters pelted Albania's government building with petrol bombs and rocks late on Tuesday, accusing state officials of involvement in organised crime and corruption after their leader was placed under house arrest.

Thousands gathered in front of the government headquarters in the capital Tirana as riot police officers were called in to cordon off the office of Prime Minister Edi Rama. There were no immediate reports of injuries, serious damage or arrests.

The main opposition Democratic Party accuses Rama of nepotism and corruption which it says are prompting many young people to emigrate for a better life in western Europe.

Protesters chose Tuesday for the rally in remembrance of Feb. 20, 1991 when pro-democracy demonstrators tore down the statue of Albania's longtime communist dictator Enver Hoxha.

"Today we are here to bring down Rama's regime, which is worse than Enver Hoxha's regime," said Syle Xhebexhia, who said he travelled over 100 km to attend the protest in Tirana.

Opposition leader Sali Berisha addressed the protesters via a video link from house arrest. He is being investigated for alleged corruption while prime minister between 2005-2013.

Berisha has denied wrongdoing, accusing Rama of a political vendetta meant to silence opponents. Rama denies this.

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to file formal charges against Berisha or drop them.

"Edi Rama, similar to the other dictator (Hoxha), has concentrated all powers in his hands and wants an Albania without opposition," Berisha told the protesting crowd.

Berisha has been regularly addressing supporters from the balcony of his apartment in downtown Tirana.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci and Florion Goga; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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