TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters called for the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama during an anti-government protest in the capital Saturday, accusing him of links to organized crime.
Participants marched along Tirana’s Martyrs of the Nation boulevard chanting “Rama go.” They held Albanian and European Union flags, and some threw stones and hard objects at Rama’s office building and the Interior Ministry.
“Albanians are protesting against the government’s ties to organized crime and trafficking, which is undermining the future of Albania and now European integration efforts,” Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told The Associated Press.
Basha, who headed the march and was the only speaker at a rally, estimated the “hundreds of thousands” of people attended the event. Police gave no figures. The rally ended after about two hours.
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National police chief Ardi Veliu said 11 officers were injured while trying to keep protesters away from government buildings.
Some protesters pulled down a fence at the Interior Ministry and tried to break through a police cordon. The conservative opposition Democrats showed a picture of their newspaper’s editor-in-chief allegedly injured from skirmishes with police.
Veliu visited the injured policemen and the editor at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Rama took to Facebook to thank Democrats “who do not support the government but still refused to take part” in the rally.
The Democrats also have accused Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj of supporting his brother’s drug-related activities. Earlier this month, the brother turned himself it to Italian authorities to serve a 2002 sentence for drug trafficking.
Xhafaj denies the allegations, saying he would resign the moment the claims were proven.
“No politicians should be guaranteed impunity,” Basha said Saturday.
The Democrats suffered a landslide loss in last year’s parliamentary election securing only 43 of the 140 seats.
Albania, a NATO member since 2009, is expecting to launch negotiations to join the EU next month.
Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lsemini