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Albania Opens Communist Files To Screen Officials

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha
TIRANA (Reuters) -- Albania's parliament has voted to open secret communist-era files to screen candidates for office, but the opposition and judges saw it as a maneuver to sideline rivals rather than cleanse society of guilt.

The law was approved only with votes of the Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and its allies after they ignored appeals from the United States, among others, to postpone the vote to allow time for broad consultation.

"We consider this law a measure of respect for all those who went through the most savage calvary of class struggle, those that had their bones broken, were executed without trial and had their properties taken," Berisha said.

Under late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha's 40-year rule, 5,037 men and 450 women were executed and up to 34,135 people were jailed, including 1,000 who died and 308 who went mad.

The law denies access to public office to ex-members of the bodies that ordered and used violence under the Stalinist regime and informed for the notorious Sigurimi secret service.

A five-member commission will work until 2014 to screen candidates, confirming suitability after it checks documents.

The main opposition Socialist Party saw the second such law since Albania toppled communism 18 years ago as an attempt by Berisha to sack prosecutors investigating corruption.

Two dozen prosecutors and judges, including those investigating a blast at an army base that killed 26 people and possible government corruption in the building of a key road, would have to quit their jobs once the law takes effect.

Opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama regretted that the law was not up to European standards.

"It is disappointing that 18 years after the fall of the communist dictatorship, the prime minister of Albania and the government forces want to open the files of the communist dictatorship to close the files of corruption," Rama said.