Greek MEP Dhionisios Alfred Beleris to remain behind bars in Albania

Greek MEP Dhionisios Alfred Beleris to remain behind bars in Albania

An Albanian appeals court on Tuesday upheld a two-year prison sentence for an elected mayor of the country’s Greek minority, Dhionisios Alfred Beleris, after his lawyers attempted to overturn what they describe as a politically motivated incarceration.

The 51-year-old Himare mayor-elect was arrested last year after being charged for allegedly buying votes.

Beleris was never sworn into the council position as he was placed under house arrest and subsequently sentenced. He has denied the charges. Beleris will remain in prison until October, according to the court’s ruling.

Yet, the New Democracy party politician recently won a seat in the European Parliament, meaning he enjoys political immunity — even for historical crimes. In the case of Beleris, however, the rule is unlikely to affect his outcome as he is serving time for a crime committed in a non-EU member country.

Six countries in the Western Balkans — Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — are at different stages in their applications for EU membership. Croatia was the last EU member country to be accepted in 2013.

The Beleris row has caused a considerable strain in relations between neighbours Greece and Albania. Following the verdict, the Greek ambassador to Tirana, Konstantina Kamitsi, raised concerns about this point.

“It is a fully democratic request that members of the European Parliament be able to be present in person at all parliamentary sessions, starting from July,” said Greek Ambassador to Albania Kostantina Kamitsi.

It comes almost weeks after the radical left-wing Italian activist Ilaria Salis was released from Hungarian prison as she was successfully elected into European Parliament at the recent election.