Albania swept by police violence

One man died and up to 40 people were injured in demonstrations yesterday in the southern Albanian port of Vlore, writes Andrew Gumbel. It was the bloodiest incident since trouble flared last month over the collapse of pyramid savings schemes, with many people blaming President Sali Berisha and his right-wing government.

Faced with demonstrations across the country at the weekend, the security forces beat protesters and carried out mass arrests. In Vlore, where demonstrators and police clashed, one man had a heart attack and another was critically injured as protesters pelted the police station with stones. During other protests, police and plainclothes security police targeted Albanian journalists working for the foreign media, beating and kicking a number of them and confiscating notebooks and camera equipment.

Three men claiming to be members of the special security forces barged into the offices of the Reuters agency to demand television footage of protests. They were eventually persuaded to leave empty-handed. The most overt use of force was evident in the southern town of Fier, where protesters were clubbed and kicked by police on the streets.

In the capital, Tirana, the opposition tried for the third time in four weeks to protest in Skanderbeg Square, in the centre of the city. Their demonstrations were broken up by force and several prominent politicians arrested.

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