'Show trial' claim as Albania accuses Alia

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TIRANA (Reuter) - Albania's last Communist leader, Ramiz Alia, is the centrepiece in what looks increasingly like a political show trial, his lawyer said yesterday. Mr Alia, 68, is accused with nine other former top Communist officials of misappropriation of state funds and abuse of power.

Mr Alia was president from 1985 to 1992. But his trial has quickly zeroed in on events before then, when he was a young Communist and a junior in the Stalinist regime of the late dictator Enver Hoxha.

'The truth is coming out every minute. It's not for economic crimes. This trial is turning into a political event,' his lawyer, Kleanthi Koci, said during a recess.

'This is what they (the state prosecutors) had in mind all along, although the charges did not openly say so. This is the way it seems to be going though I hope it will not end this way.'

Cross-examination on the second day of the trial, in a cramped and stifling Tirana courtroom, focused on events in 1951, when a bomb was tossed into the Soviet embassy, and 1967, when the Communists banned religion.

Presiding Judge Andi Celiku rapped frequently with his fist for silence as the prosecutor, Neshat Fana, questioned a former vice-president, Rita Marko, and a former prime minister, Adil Carcani, about the bombing.

In reprisal for the attack on the embassy of their then staunchest ally - in which no injuries were caused - 22 suspected opponents of the regime were killed, buried in a mass grave and, it is alleged, 'convicted' in a fake trial staged only later.

Mr Koci, rising to the defence of Mr Alia who was mostly silent, protested when the prosecutor linked his client to the two issues. Earlier, Mr Alia said he was 'a nobody in 1951' and could not be held responsible for actions taken then by the police or government.

On Saturday, Judge Celiku dismissed a demand by Mr Alia that the trial should be televised live. Mr Alia, apparently confident that he still has some support and sympathy among Albanians, had argued that the people had a right to see everything.