Menu

EUROPE

2nd former political prisoner sets himself on fire in Albania

Another former political prisoner set himself on fire in Albania on Wednesday to protest delays in government compensation for victims of the communist regime.

Lirak Bejko, 47, was hospitalized in serious condition after suffering burns on nearly half his body, Health Minister Vangjel Tavo said. He is the second member of a group of 20 former political prisoners to set himself on fire, protesting the failure of the government to pay compensation for the torment endured in communist-era prisons.

Gjergj Ndreca, 53, who set himself on fire Monday, remains in stable condition.

The images of the men engulfed in flames have been broadcast through this southeastern European nation of 2.8 million. The men have been on hunger strike for 19 days, but the dramatic images of men engulfed in flames prompted a response from the country's prime minister.

Sali Berisha said he was deeply concerned for the injured but denied claims that he was ignoring the plight of former political prisoners, arguing that his conservative government had taken several initiatives to compensate them.

Police officers in charge of monitoring the strikers would be held accountable for Wednesday's incident, but did not elaborate, the prime minister said.

Police say they have stepped up efforts to monitor the hunger strike, and have seized flammable materials from the site.

The protesters want the government to honor pledges to pay victims of the former regime 2,000 leks ($18.32; €14.05) per day of imprisonment. The government says it has already started overcome the payment delays.

About 100,000 Albanians were executed, imprisoned or sent to labor camps by the communist regime between 1944 and 1990.