Tirana, Albania, May 17 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj has refused to step down after opposition democrats accuse him of protecting his brother from serving a 7 year jail sentence in Italy.
The decision not to step down comes after the democratic party revealed an audio recording allegedly showing the minister’s brother Agron Xhafaj organizing drug trafficking in the southern city of Vlora.
Yesterday, Albania’s interior minister Xhafaj said he had never compromised his duties in order to protect his brother from prosecution while accusing the opposition of joining forces with criminal groups in the country who seek to topple the government.
“Close interests of the opposition have joined certain criminal interests within and outside of the decayed justice system, ready to cooperate with the devil himself in order to bring down this government. I guarantee that even if I had left, what has been achieved by my team and our international partners will not be undone. No one can blackmail me and no one can hamper my efforts to fight crime.” – said a visibly disturbed interior minister during a press conference in Tirana.
Xhafaj’s conference followed a statement by prime minister Rama who claimed the audio recording was not authentic according to his sources and that those behind its falsification will go to prison.
“Who organized such a discussing game to confuse public opinion through such a public deceitful act to harm Albania at this historical moment, must pay according to the law of this republic by prison time.” – said Rama in front of the ruling socialist parliamentary group yesterday.
Allegations follow earlier exposures that the minister’s brother had already been sentenced to 7 years in prison by an Italian court for earlier involvement in criminal activity in the neighboring country. Since revelations were made public, Xhafaj’s brother declared the recording was fake and that he had decided to voluntarily depart to Italy to serve his 7 year jail sentence.
However, democratic party chairman Lulzim Basha said the audio-recording proves that the brother of the interior minister is in Albania, and that he has escaped any form of punishment by hiding in the country under another name, while accusing interior minister Fatmir Xhafaj of protecting his brother.
The democrats who staged a protest in front of the interior ministy demanding Xhafaj’s resignation, have warned the saga does not end here and that Rama’s government must be dismantled at any cost.
Albania hopes to open accession talks on membership with the European Union in June. EU key member states have asked the country to show tangible results in its fight against organized crime and corruption and to reform its highly corrupt justice system.
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