Mayor of Athens Bakoyannis is in Himare for a rally in support of Beleri: Democracy cannot be imprisoned

Tue, 15 Aug 2023 9:55 GMT
Mayor of Athens Bakoyannis is in Himare for a rally in support of Beleri: Democracy cannot be imprisoned

The Mayors of Athens and Thessaloniki, Kostas Bakoyannis and Konstantinos Zervas, addressed on Monday evening a rally organised by the Greek minority in Himare, Albania, calling for the release of the elected mayor of the city, Fredi Beleri, who is imprisoned in Tirana.

A videotaped message from European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas was also shown at the rally.

Beleri was detained on 12 May, two days before his election as mayor of Himare, for allegedly bribing voters. Although he has not yet been formally charged, all his appeals to the Tirana courts for his release have been rejected. Greece strongly protested against his continued detention before Albanian as well as European and other authorities. The rally took place on 14 August, the last day of the three-month period for an elected mayor to be sworn in before new elections are held.

The event, organised by the Greek National Minority organisation 'Omonoia', was attended by Greeks from the region and Greece, as well as members of Albanian opposition parties protesting against the continued detention of the elected mayor of Himare and accusing Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama of political motivations.

In his videotaped message, Schinas called on Albanians to "put an end to a tactic that does not benefit their country and is not in favour of the Albanian people's European aspirations". Schinas added that a lot of time had been lost, but that even now it was not too late to correct a "very un-European" situation and allow Beleri to be sworn in and take office. "No other option is acceptable to the European Union," said Mr Bakoyoy, speaking as Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Promoting our European Way of Life.

Speaking at the rally, Mr Bakoyannis said that his presence was in support of freedom and democracy. As Mayor of Athens and President of the B40 Balkan Cities Network, he said: "I send you this message: democracy cannot be imprisoned. The voice of the citizens cannot be silenced. The will of the people cannot be falsified. Himare has a mayor and this is final - his name is Fredi Beleri." The mayor of Athens underlined the need to defend the rule of law and European principles at a time when Albania is trying to become a member of the European Union.

The Mayor of Thessaloniki, Mr Zervas, expressed the support of his region and said that he had sent a letter to all the sister cities of Thessaloniki, from Sydney to San Francisco, explaining the Beleri case. "Everyone should know why Fredi was tortured and why his rights were violated, so that no one can say that they did not know that democracy is threatened and eradicated in this corner of the world," Zervas added. He added that the fight for Beleri's rights is a fight for democracy and the protection of the Greek National Minority.

Other speakers included prominent Greek minority leaders and MPs from Greece for the ruling New Democracy Kostas Gioulekas and Vassilis Giogiakas, Mayor of Igoumenitsa Giannis Lolos and others. The event was organised in Greek and Albanian languages and there were no incidents.


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