Outraged mourners honor Albanian riot victim
Parliament considers emergency rule as protesters burn
February 11, 1997
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT)
In this story:
VLORA, Albania (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of mourners poured
through the Albanian port of Vlora on Tuesday in an explosion
of outrage after the funeral of an anti-government demonstrator
killed in clashes with police.
Artur Rustemi was one of three people to die in two days of
clashes between police and protesters who blame President
Sali Berisha for the loss of their life savings in failed
pyramid investment schemes.
Rustemi, who owned a small store, died Monday after a bullet
pierced his collarbone and lodged in his lung. "Police killed
him," wept his wife, Donika, 23. "He did nothing but ask for
his own money."
"The police killed him! We will take revenge!" the crowd
chanted Tuesday. Police were not to be seen as protesters
swarmed across the port and
torched the local offices of
Berisha's ruling Democratic Party, sending smoke over the
crowd of angry mourners.
Rustemi's open coffin was preceded by three black-and-red
national flags at half mast. Held aloft were two portraits of
Rustemi, a father of two in his early 30s who had invested
his savings in the pyramid schemes.
Albania's leadership says the unrest is part of a plot by
leftist extremists. In the capital Tirana, parliament was to
study an appeal by Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi to
introduce emergency rule in Vlora, 90 miles (150 km) to the
"We want to take extraordinary measures to prevent
deterioration in Vlora," said Meksi, who wants to send army
troops. Two trucks of soldiers armed with Kalashnikov rifles
stood by on a bridge 10 miles north of town.
Opposition leaders in parliament say the government seeks to
use the unrest to establish a police state.
"Peaceful protest and dialog have to be combined to find the
right solution, which for us is the resignation of a corrupt
government," said Albanian Socialist Party leader Rexhep
Some opposition politicians accuse the party of using
proceeds from the investment funds to finance their re-
election campaign last year. Western observers have
criticized the election as unfair.
"Berisha is filling our cemeteries!" cried mourners in Vlora,
clapping in unison. The crowd was swelled by thousands of
residents persuaded to leave balconies overlooking the route
and join in Rustemi's funeral march.
The other victim of Monday's street battles, who died of
heart failure, was being buried later in the day. About 150
people were injured in two days of clashes in the port.
In Tirana, about 150 protesters staged a brief protest in a
central square, shouting "Vlora! Vlora!" before scattering to
evade riot police. About 2,000 people gathered for a second
straight day in the southern city of Gjirokaster.
Opposition attempts to stage rallies in the capital have been
broken up for two successive weekends by riot police.
The opposition Forum for Democracy has urged residents
instead to shut down schools and shops for two hours each day
and called another rally for Wednesday. But the government
has issued a fresh ban on the gathering.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Related site:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.