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Former Albanian president, 78, is PUNCHED in the face and left with a black eye during protest

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Former Albanian president, 78, is PUNCHED in the face and left with a black eye as thug attacks him during anti-government protest

  •  Sali Berisha, 78, punched in the face by a 31-year-old man in Albanian capital
  • Berisha was leading hundreds of protesters towards the venue of summit of EU leaders and their Western Balkan counterparts in Tirana when he was attacked
  • Video shows Berisha being thrown backwards by the powerful punch  

Former Albanian president Sali Berisha was punched in the face by a thug today during an anti-government protest in the capital of Tirana.

The opposition leader, 78, was leading hundreds of protesters towards the venue of a summit of EU leaders and their Western Balkan counterparts in Tirana when a 31-year-old man emerged from the crowd and attacked the politician.

Video shows Berisha, who leads the centre-right Democratic Party, being thrown backwards by the powerful punch while his bodyguards rushed to subdue the attacker.

Berisha, a former president and prime minister of Albania, was later seen gently dabbing his black eye with a handkerchief.

Video shows Berisha, who leads the centre-right Democratic Party, being thrown backwards by the powerful punch while his bodyguards rushed to subdue the attacker

Berisha, a former president and prime minister of Albania, was later seen gently dabbing his black eye with a handkerchief

Berisha, a former president and prime minister of Albania, was later seen gently dabbing his black eye with a handkerchief

Former Albanian president Sali Berisha was punched in the face and left with a black eye

Former Albanian president Sali Berisha was punched in the face and left with a black eye

Police said a 31-year old suspect who was taken into custody had suffered from ‘psychiatric irregularities’ and had previously faced charges involving acts of violence and drug trafficking.

Thousands of opposition supporters gathered in the city on Tuesday as Albania hosts its first EU-Balkans summit, attended by leaders of European Union member states, to protest against the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama and demand early elections.

The opposition are protesting against the alleged corruption of Rama, which they also blame for the country’s cost-of-living crisis and the exodus of young Albanians leaving for a better life in Western European countries. 

Mr Berisha directly accused Mr Rama of the attack, saying he wanted to stop the opposition from staging the protest.

Sali Berisha, the leader of the Albanian opposition center-right Democratic Party, injured, looks on after he has been attacked during an anti-government protest held near a summit of European Union leaders and their counterparts from the Western Balkans in the capital Tirana, Albania, on Tuesday

Sali Berisha, the leader of the Albanian opposition center-right Democratic Party, injured, looks on after he has been attacked during an anti-government protest held near a summit of European Union leaders and their counterparts from the Western Balkans in the capital Tirana, Albania, on Tuesday

Berisha puts his head in his hands after he was punched in the face by an attacker

Berisha puts his head in his hands after he was punched in the face by an attacker 

Berisha, seen with a black eye, speaks to his supporters after he was attacked

Berisha, seen with a black eye, speaks to his supporters after he was attacked

Mr Berisha said the attack was a ‘criminal act against him instigated by state police.’    

Albania’s socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama ‘unequivocally’ condemned the incident.

‘Violence has not been, is not and never will be a tool to solve a problem or a concern and anyone who uses it must face the force of the law,’ Rama said in a statement.

Albania has seen more than an 8 per cent rise in prices this year, especially for basic food and fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

People take part in an an anti-government protest held near a summit of European Union leaders and their counterparts from the Western Balkans in the capital Tirana on Tuesday

People take part in an an anti-government protest held near a summit of European Union leaders and their counterparts from the Western Balkans in the capital Tirana on Tuesday 

Mr Rama says his cabinet has kept inflation low compared with double-digit inflation elsewhere in Europe, and has noted that the government subsidises electricity for families and small businesses.

Mr Berisha’s party has been plagued by infighting after US secretary of state Antony Blinken last year barred Mr Berisha and his close relatives from entering the US for ‘corrupt acts that undermined democracy’ during his 2005-2013 tenure as prime minister. The UK did the same this year. He denies the charges. 

EU leaders and their Western Balkan counterparts are in Tirana for talks aimed at strengthening their partnership as Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens to reshape the geopolitical balance in the region.

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