TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's Central Election Commission has canceled the mandates of two members of Parliament and a mayor because of their criminal records.
The actions taken Thursday were the first under a law passed last year that bars people with criminal records from holding public office and most civil service jobs.
The commission terminated the terms of the two lawmakers — Dashamir Tahiri of the main opposition Democratic Party and Shkelqim Selami of the Socialist Movement for Integration — and of Kavaja Mayor Elvis Roshi.
All three officials have denied having criminal records. But prosecutors say they had convictions in Italy and Switzerland for crimes that included money laundering, drug distribution and human trafficking.
Since mayors are under the central government's jurisdiction, Prime Minister Edi Rama also dismissed Roshi from his post "for grave law violations."
The lawmakers and the mayor's lawyer said they would appeal the commission's verdict.
Fighting corruption and cleansing its political and public ranks of convicted criminals remains a top priority for Albania, the tiny western Balkan country hoping to launch membership negotiations with the European Union soon.
The U.S. Embassy in Tirana hailed the commission's decision as "a victory for the Albanian people and a warning for criminals considering whether to become candidates in the June 18 parliamentary elections."
"Persons with criminal records should have no place representing the Albanian people," the embassy said a statement issued after the decision.
Albania has parliamentary elections scheduled for June, and a new mayoral election will be held in Kavaja.
This story has been corrected from an earlier version to state that Albania is hoping to launch EU membership negotiations.