Albanian Legislator Shot in Parliament

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 18 Sep 1997
By Benet Koleka

TIRANA, Albania (Reuter) - A member of the ruling Socialist Party shot and wounded a political rival in the parliament building Thursday, raising fears of more strife in the Balkan country wracked by anarchy earlier this year.

Prime Minister Fatos Nano moved swiftly to try to prevent the shooting turning into a crisis just as Albania appeared to be returning to normal after months of violence ignited by the collapse of pyramid investment schemes.

But the main opposition Democratic Party called for demonstrations and demanded Nano resign.

Nano, in power since a Socialist-led leftist alliance won a landslide victory over the Democrats in June, appeared on television to express deep regret over ''a criminal act,'' the most serious political incident since the June elections.

He appealed to political leaders to respect the rules of political life in a democracy and avoid stirring up trouble.

''We succeeded in overcoming a deep crisis through peaceful means and a free vote of our people. Let us also overcome this serious and criminal event through the logic of an emancipated political class and a cultured-minded people,'' he added.

A police spokesman said Socialist lawmaker Gafur Mazreku was charged with attempted murder of Democratic deputy Azem Hajdari, a former student leader who in 1990 helped topple the 45-year Stalinist regime.

President Rexhep Meidani also condemned the shooting, telling state radio such acts undermined efforts to restore peace and strengthen reconciliation.

But former president and Democrat leader Sali Berisha, ousted in the June elections, described the incident as political and called on Nano to resign.

Berisha attacked the Socialist-dominated legislature as ''the parliament of crime'' and described Nano and Meidani as a ''murderous clique.''

''We want Fatos Nano to quit power immediately,'' he told reporters in the Democrats' packed headquarters, calling on people to gather in Tirana's central Skanderbeg Square to demonstrate their opposition to Nano's government.

The Italian embassy said it was sending a military doctor to examine Hajdari at Nano's request and decide whether he needed to be sent to Italy for treatment.

Albanian television quoted doctors as saying Hajdari had wounds in both sides of the chest but the bullets had not damaged vital organs.

A bullet also perforated his thigh and shin and broke his shoulder bone. One remained in chest tissue.

''Doctors confirm Hajdari is out of life-threatening danger,'' the television quoted a hospital statement as saying.

One witness said Mazreku had shot Hajdari four times with a pistol inside the assembly building.

The two politicians had been involved in fisticuffs in the parliament chamber Tuesday during a debate on raising value added tax. Both had disputed the other's right to address the chamber minutes before punches were thrown.

Reut17:07 09-18-97

(18 Sep 1997 17:06 EDT)

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