Albanian journalist charges police of violence

An Albanian journalist said Monday he was pressing charges against police after being badly beaten in a southern town. Gerti Xhaja of the Gazeta Shqiptare newspaper and News24 private television station in Lushnja, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of capital Tirana, said police beat him on Saturday after he tried to take photographs of a police raid on his father's bar.

Lushnja police said in a statement that the officer in charge and all policemen involved in the case had been suspended. They did not give the reason for the raid on the bar, saying only it was conducted legally. Xhaja alleged that police continued to beat him when he was taken later to the police station.

The country's Journalists' Union urged authorities to investigate the incident, and said the police's behavior was "punishable in democracy and the rule of law in our country."

The Albanian Helsinki Committee rights group said such acts "negatively affected people's trust to the law and law enforcement institutions." Albania's president, prime minister and interior minister all denounced the alleged attack as unacceptable.

Journalists have often been the target of politically motivated violence in Albania since the demise of the communist regime in 1990. In December, another journalist, Engjell Serjani of the Dita Jug regional newspaper, was beaten unconscious by an unidentified group of people. The Journalists' Union said no suspects have been named in that attack, reports the AP.


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