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Albanian parliament to lift immunity of 2 MPs

Albanian parliament to lift immunity of 2 MPs

Albania's parliament met Wednesday to vote on lifting the immunity of a former prime minister accused of corruption in allegations that led to a deadly anti-government demonstration.
Prosecutor General Ina Rama's office has asked parliament to lift the immunity of Ilir Meta, a lawmaker who served as prime minister in 1999-2002 and deputy prime minister to the current government since 2009.
Meta resigned as deputy prime minister last month over corruption allegations led to political tension culminating in a January anti-government protest that left four people dead.
Rama's office also has urged lawmakers to lift the immunity of former economy minister Dritan Prifti.
Parliament Speaker Jozefina Topalli said lawmakers would discuss Meta's case Wednesday and Prifti's case on Thursday. If the immunity is lifted, prosecutors can investigate the corruption case. Both men have denied the allegations and have said they want their immunity lifted so they can clear their names.
Meta resigned after Prifti made public a video allegedly showing Meta trying to influence him over a state tender for a hydropower station. Meta, leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration which is part of the governing coalition, denies any wrongdoing and says the video was fabricated by the opposition.
Prifti was accused of corruption after the prosecutor general's office sent Prifti's laptop to a forensic expert to check on whether the video was genuine. The forensic expert allegedly found a separate deleted video on the laptop of another case of suspected bribery involving Prifti and his deputy minister.
Prifti has denied the allegations, saying the he had shot the second video himself to prove Meta was attempting to exert pressure on him.
The opposition Socialists are demanding that conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha call elections over the corruption allegations and others of vote-rigging in the 2009 election. Berisha has refused to resign, accusing the opposition of trying to stage a coup.
Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries and now a NATO member, is seeking to join the European Union, but the 27-nation bloc has said the Balkan country of 3.2 million people does not yet meet criteria on rooting out corruption.
European and U.S. officials have repeatedly called for restraint from both opposition Socialists and governing Democrats in the latest dispute, and have pressed for a compromise to resolve the crisis.
The opposition has staged a series of anti-government demonstrations and rallies. Another is planned for Friday, while the governing Democrats are to hold a concert Sunday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the toppling of a monument to former communist dictator Enver Hoxha.