By Erl Murati
Albanian President Bujar Nishani’s decision to dismiss the head of intelligence services and appoint the deputy minister of innovation, Visho Ajazi Lika, to the post is being criticised as an invasion of the secret service institution.
According to the Albanian media, Bahri Shaqiri learned of his August 9th dismissal as head of the Albanian State Information Service (SIS) from radio news reports while on vacation.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha proposed Lika for the post and Nishani approved him without a public debate.
In the past, Berisha had accused Shaqiri for collaborating with the socialists, identifying him as one of the masterminds of the government overthrow last year. In early 2011, four protesters were killed by the republican guard in a violent demonstration in front of the prime minister’s office.
Lika held the post of the external intelligence director between 1994 and 1997, when the Socialist Party accused Berisha of violence, spying and election fraud.
Ilir Gjoni, vice chairman of the national security parliamentary committee and socialist MP, said he is worried that Berisha might misuse SIS again for ballot manipulation.
“A year before 2013 parliamentary elections, Berisha needs a scarecrow like him [Lika]. Everything happening today already happened between 1992 and 1997. With this shameful dismissal of the SIS head, Berisha and Nishani are sending an ominous message to the country,” Gjoni told SETimes.
Former SIS head Fatos Klosi shares the same concerns. “Berisha attempted to take control of SIS seven years ago, but he achieved this only now… Berisha wants to have his own man in SIS and together, I think, they will do awful things. We should be worried.”
The Albanian government, however, affirmed the new SIS head. “This appointment was made fully in accordance with the constitution and the country’s laws,” Majlinda Bregu, government spokesperson and minister of integration, said.
Lika, who previously worked as a diplomat, received praise from Tritan Shehu, former minister of foreign affairs.
“I know him as an official that works with accuracy and performs his duty with dignity and professionalism. As an official he respects legal procedures,” Shehu told SETimes.