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Albanian Victims Demand Condemnation Of Communist Crimes

Communist leader Enver Hoxha is still celebrated by some Albanians
TIRANA (Reuters) -- The victims of Albania's late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha picked his 100th birthday on October 16 to ask parliament to stop delaying a resolution to condemn the crimes of communism.

The former political prisoners protested at government offices and parliament, holding placards saying "Condemn the Crimes of Communism," "Hoxha, the Cruelest Dictator in Europe" and "A European Albania without Communist Dogma." They also carried pictures of 5,037 men and 450 women executed under Hoxha's rule as they marched in downtown Tirana.

Under Hoxha, who ruled Albania for 40 years from 1945, up to 34,135 people were jailed, including 1,000 who died and 308 who went mad.

At parliament's gates, Besim Ndregjoni, secretary of the Association of Former Political Prisoners, asked Jozefina Topalli, the Parliament Speaker who comes from a persecuted family herself, why parliament did not condemn Hoxha's crimes.

"It is two years now that [the Council of] Europe says you should condemn the crimes of communism, but you keep silent and have coffee with our jailers," Ndregjoni said, referring to some leftist leaders who were once ministers under communism. "Failure to condemn them is a shame for the nation. It is justice to do so, not vengeance."

The former prisoners, whose properties were expropriated by Hoxha's wave of nationalization, complained they have not been compensated or given their properties back despite voting for Prime Minister Sali Berisha's ruling Democratic Party.

Although still largely rural, Albania has seen fast economic growth of six percent and a building boom in recent years.

Before the ex-prisoners' protest, Hoxha's widow Nexhmije, 86, visited his grave accompanied by diehard supporters. He died in 1983.

Hoxha's remains were transferred to the public graveyard after Berisha, as president in 1992, ordered them removed from the Martyrs of the Nation cemetery.