Albania: New protest over police shooting, minister resigns

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Albanian police use a water cannon against protesters during clashes in Tirana, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Albanian protesters on Thursday renewed clashes with police over the fatal police shooting of a man during curfew hours despite the call from the authorities to respect a pandemic ban on public gatherings. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA – Demonstrators clashed with police for a second day Thursday in the Albanian capital, Tirana, during a protest over this week's fatal police shooting of a man during curfew hours.

In a televised address broadcast just as the protest started, Prime Minister Edi Rama apologized to the dead 25-year-old's parents, and the country's interior minister resigned over the shooting.

Nevertheless, several hundred people went ahead with the protest — ignoring an appeal by authorities to respect a pandemic-linked ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people.

They marched to the interior ministry, and some threw stones and other projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Some protesters were seen being detained.

In the southeastern city of Korca, protesters also attacked police and the city hall on Thursday.

Klodian Rasha, 25, was shot dead early Tuesday. Police said he ignored officers’ calls to stop and ran away. One policeman has been detained over the incident, pending an investigation.

Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said he decided to step down "as a human being and as a parent who modestly shares the pain with ... Klodian Rasha's family.”

The country’s main opposition party blamed Rama directly for the death and demanded his own resignation. The country is due to hold parliamentary elections in April 2021.

Rama, who returned from a trip to the U.S. Thursday, visited Rasha's family. He said they told him that they wanted “justice, not political noise.”

The prime minister said he considered the shooting “inexplicable and completely unreasonable,” but added that it's up to Albania's judiciary “to state if the (policeman) is guilty before the law.”

On Wednesday hundreds of Albanians in Tirana had also defied pandemic rules to protest Rasha's death. Many threw stones and flares at police while trying to force their way into the Interior Ministry, and the main government building that includes Rama's office.

They also damaged the New Year decorations at the main Skanderbeg Square.

A police statement said three alleged organizers of Wednesday's protest have been arrested, and another four people were freed after being charged.


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