ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The detention of a mayoral candidate belonging to the Greek minority in Albania has raised tensions between the two neighboring countries.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Saturday demanding the release of Dionysis-Fredi Beleri, a candidate for mayor of the Albanian city of Himare, which has a strong Greek minority presence.
Greek media reported that Beleri was arrested by Albanian police early Friday on charges of vote buying, two days ahead of local elections. A court confirmed Saturday that he would remain in custody.
The Greek ministry’s announcement implies that the case could negatively impact Albania’s application to join the European Union.
“Today’s decision of the Vlora District Court, if there is no irrefutable evidence, constitutes a scandal. The arrest of a mayoral candidate two days before the elections is not within the rule of law. The decision to detain the mayoral candidate in custody induces a full reversal of the rules of equality in the municipal elections in Himare, a significant center of the Greek national minority in Albania,” the ministry’s statement says.
“Such a decision will also have repercussions on the European Union’s relations with Albania, as adherence to European rules and the principles of the rule of law is a prerequisite for this European path. Decisions such as today’s, which violate these principles, mean that in practice Albania is not following the European path,” the announcement continues.