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Politike

Accused of stealing votes, REL analysis: The appeal in Albania upholds the two-year prison sentence for Beler

Accused of stealing votes, REL analysis: The appeal in Albania upholds the

The Special Court of Appeal in Albania decided on Tuesday to uphold the sentence of Alfred Beler, the elected mayor of the municipality of Himara, with two years in prison for stealing votes, dismissing his appeal.

In March, the Special Court sentenced Beler to two years in prison on charges of stealing votes in local elections on May 14, 2023. Beler and his defense lawyers have called the charges political and baseless, but the Appeal decided to uphold it the verdict of the court of first instance for his two-year prison sentence.

The Tuesday session was also attended from the courtroom by the Greek ambassador in Tirana, Konstantina Kamitsi. She told the media after the session that "the municipality of Himara is still run by people who have not been elected by the voters".

The appeal reviewed Beler's appeal in mid-June, but postponed the decision to June 25. Beleri won a seat in the European Parliament as a representative of Greece's leading party, New Democracy, in the June elections.

Beler's election as a member of the European Parliament caused controversy - both for his legitimacy and for the impact of his case on Albania's European integration. Lawyers and international relations experts say his case raises constitutional and legal concerns.

According to them, it can affect Albania's efforts to join the European Union, but also its relations with Greece. Beleri, with Albanian and Greek citizenship, was the opposition's candidate for mayor of Himara - a city also inhabited by a Greek population in the south of Albania - in the May 2023 elections.

He was arrested a few days before the elections on suspicion of vote buying. Despite being in custody at the time, Beleri won the elections, but was never sworn in. In March of this year, he was sentenced to two years in prison. The case prompted heavy criticism in Athens, where the Foreign Ministry said that "the two-year sentence is clearly disproportionate to the extent of the alleged offense".

The party of the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, then nominated him as a candidate for the European Parliament elections, which were held from June 6 to 9, where he was elected.

 

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