Minister of State Stavros Papastavrou, in an interview with the “Skai” radio station on Monday, referred to the case of the elected mayor of Himare, Fredi Beleri. “The Beleri issue is deeply European, it is not bilateral. It is about respecting the rule of law,” he said.
“There is strong support by the (Greek) government of the need to respect the rule of law, the need to respect a fair trial and to fully respect the right to the presumption of innocence. Fredi Beleri was elected mayor in the elections of May 14, 2023 while, two days before, he had been imprisoned on remand. In other words, he won the elections while he was in custody. He had received a number of verbal attacks throughout the previous period. Since he was elected, for almost seven months now, he has been in custody. And the Albanian government has denied him the inalienable right to be sworn in as mayor, as the citizens of Himare chose. What is also bizzare is that the person who was not elected, continues to exercise the duties of the mayor,” the Minister of State noted.
Papastavrou pointed out that “the Greek minority is constantly under pressure”, recalling earlier incidents with the elections there. But, he added, the Greek minority has been there “since the time of Homer. It is an area across from Corfu, it has great economic value, and it is a place where the Greek minority and the Albanians can coexist.” The request is “to find a fair solution in accordance with the European acquis, the principle of good neighbourliness and the rule of law. Because that way everyone will win. Albania will win, Greece will win, Himare will win. While this unacceptable situation continues with Beleri in custody, who is at risk of a sentence of one to five years on a charge that is not supported in reality, we all suffer from it. Europe, Albania, Greece and Himare”, he underlined.
Of course, he added, “if Beleri had not been a member of the Greek ethnic minority or any minority at all, obviously Greece would not have shown the same interest. But for Europe it should remain a European issue. Because if an executive power in any state can refuse to swear someone in because it doesn’t like them, that is a problem for Europe.”
He also expressed the hope that the electoral process will not be repeated and that the government will finally respect “popular sovereignty and the right of Fredi Beleri to exercise his duties as mayor and at least to be sworn in”. “He should be tried as a mayor, as would be the case in any member state,” concluded Papastavrou.