The recently elected municipal council of Himare, southern Albania, convened for the first time on Tuesday in absentia of Mayor Fredi Beleri, the detained ethnic Greek politician who won the region’s mayoral race on May 14.
Beleri, who remains in jail since May 12 on allegations of bribing voters, had applied for a furlough to attend his swearing-in ceremony and council assembly but it was rejected by Albanian court authorities on Monday, which claimed lack of precedent. The action was condemned by the Greek foreign affairs ministry.
The Himare council meeting went ahead reportedly under heavy police presence, while Beleri’s supporters protested outside. In a statement, Beleri called on his supporters to show faith in the rule of law and he asked international organizations to intervene and restore justice and human rights.
Outgoing Mayor of Himare Giorgos Goros, who was defeated by Beleri, will remain acting mayor of Himare until the latter’s judicial process is completed.
Attending Himare’s council meeting, Greek Ambassador to Albania Konstantina Kamitsi called Beleri’s absence “a major blow to the rule of law and the principle of the presumption of innocence.”