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Politics

Jailed Ethnic Greek Elected Mayor in Albania Wins EU Parliament Seat

ATHENS – An ethnic Greek jailed after being elected Mayor of the Albanian seaside town of Himare – for which he blamed Prime Minister Edi Rama and judicial corruption – won a seat in the European Parliament as a candidate for Greece’s New Democracy.

With more than 96 percent of the votes counted, Fredi Beleri had gotten 236,271 votes, putting him fourth among the seven Members of the European Parliament for the Conservatives. The campaign was run by his son, Petros Beleri.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has threatened to block Albania’s hopes of joining the European Union – which requires a unanimous consensus from the current 27 member states – over the jailing of Beleri.

Rama hasn’t bent to the pressure amid reports he expects the United States, which wants expansion in the Balkans to head off Russian influence, will squeeze Mitsotakis to back down, keeping Beleri in jail.

Beleri said he was falsely convicted of buying votes because he said Rama wants to benefit business associates to develop Himare as the Albanian seaside is growing in tourist popularity because it’s far cheaper than Greece and other countries.

The case has severely tested relations between the countries but so far Rama has shown no signs he will relent and the courts that Beleri said are controlled by the Premier have upheld his dubious conviction and imprisonment for two years.

Despite winning the EU seat there was no indication he would be able to be released to attend sessions in Brussels, the seat of the European Commission, or in another headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

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