US Embassy Slaps Down Albanian Ex-PM Berisha

The US Embassy in Tirana has firmly denied allegations made by former Prime Minister Sali Berisha that a member of its staff interfered in a criminal investigation.

Besar Likmeta BIRN Tirana

“The United States Embassy in Tirana is appalled at the unsubstantiated allegation made against an Embassy employee earlier today by Mr Sali Berisha,” the US embassy said on Thursday.

“The allegation is completely untrue and without foundation,” it added.

On Thursday, in parliament, Berisha accused the Minister of Defence, Mimi Kodheli, and her sister, of being behind the arrest on charges of abuse of office of retired General Syrja Gjoka.

Berisha said Kodheli used her sister, who works in the US Justice Department’s Mission for Oversees Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training, OPDAT, to put pressure on two prosecutors to order the arrest of the ex-general.

“She used her sister, who spoke in the name of the OPDAT mission, although the sister there is just an employee,” Berisha said.

“Minister Kodheli has put pressure on two prosecutors, [with the message] either Syrja Gjoka is lynched or you lose [your jobs],” Berisha added.

Former Prime Minister Berisha is no stranger to making colourful accusations.

Following the January 2011 riots in Tirana, in which four opposition protesters were shot dead by security forces, Berisha accused the secret service, the president, the opposition, the general prosecutor and four journalists of plotting a coup d’état.

He also claimed that the plotters had were responsible for the four deaths, having used “umbrella pistols” and “knives tipped with poison” to kill them and then blame the government.

During his two terms in office from 2005 to 2013, Berisha had a difficult relationship with the US embassy, owing of his own authoritarian tendencies and corruption scandals that involved his inner circle and family.

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