Protesters torch Christmas tree in Albania amid riots over ‘fatal police shooting’ of man

Police fired teargas at hundreds of Albanians in Tirana who were demonstrating against the alleged fatal police shooting of a 25-year-old man who had violated a coronavirus curfew.

Chanting ‘We want justice!’, protesters set fire to a Christmas tree outside the interior ministry and tried to force their way into the ministry and the government complex.  

Klodian Rasha was killed early on Tuesday in what Albanian police described as an excessive use of force by an officer during an overnight curfew introduced to control the spread of Covid-19 cases.   

The police had first said that Mr Rasha failed to obey a police officer’s order to stop and that he had carried a weapon. But later the police said the man was holding an object but not a weapon, as initially reported. 

Demonstrators set fire to a Christmas tree outside the main government building where the Prime Minister's office is

Demonstrators set fire to a Christmas tree outside the main government building where the Prime Minister's office is

Demonstrators set fire to a Christmas tree outside the main government building where the Prime Minister’s office is

Klodian Rasha was killed early on Tuesday in what Albanian police described as an excessive use of force by an officer during an overnight curfew introduced to control the spread of Covid-19 cases

Klodian Rasha was killed early on Tuesday in what Albanian police described as an excessive use of force by an officer during an overnight curfew introduced to control the spread of Covid-19 cases

Klodian Rasha was killed early on Tuesday in what Albanian police described as an excessive use of force by an officer during an overnight curfew introduced to control the spread of Covid-19 cases

Chanting 'We want justice!', protesters hurled stones and firecrackers at the police, the interior ministry, the city hall and main government buildings

Chanting 'We want justice!', protesters hurled stones and firecrackers at the police, the interior ministry, the city hall and main government buildings

Chanting ‘We want justice!’, protesters hurled stones and firecrackers at the police, the interior ministry, the city hall and main government buildings

A policer office tries to put out a fire after a Christmas tree was set alight outside the Prime Minister's office during clashes

A policer office tries to put out a fire after a Christmas tree was set alight outside the Prime Minister's office during clashes

A policer office tries to put out a fire after a Christmas tree was set alight outside the Prime Minister’s office during clashes

Protesters also hurled stones and firecrackers at the police, the interior ministry, the city hall and main government buildings in the capital Tirana tonight. 

The protesters demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj over the death of Mr Rasha.

Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd after scuffles broke out outside the Interior Ministry.

The protesters, most of them not wearing masks, defied a government ban on public gatherings of more than ten people due to the pandemic as they rallied outside in the freezing rain. 

At least eight police officers were injured by the stones and firecrackers thrown by demonstrators, according to a police spokesman. Parked police cars were also damaged. Media reports said a protester and a journalist were also injured.

Protesters clashed with police tonight in Tirana, Albania over the death of Klodian Rasha

Protesters clashed with police tonight in Tirana, Albania over the death of Klodian Rasha

Protesters clashed with police tonight in Tirana, Albania over the death of Klodian Rasha

The protesters, most of them not wearing masks, defied a government ban on public gatherings of more than ten people due to the pandemic as they rallied outside in the freezing rain. Pictured: Protesters burn flares in front of the PM's office

The protesters, most of them not wearing masks, defied a government ban on public gatherings of more than ten people due to the pandemic as they rallied outside in the freezing rain. Pictured: Protesters burn flares in front of the PM's office

The protesters, most of them not wearing masks, defied a government ban on public gatherings of more than ten people due to the pandemic as they rallied outside in the freezing rain. Pictured: Protesters burn flares in front of the PM’s office

A firefighter tries to put out a fire in front of the prime minister's office during a protest

A firefighter tries to put out a fire in front of the prime minister's office during a protest

A firefighter tries to put out a fire in front of the prime minister’s office during a protest

Police fire tear gas at protesters to try and disperse the large crowd

Police fire tear gas at protesters to try and disperse the large crowd

Police fire tear gas at protesters to try and disperse the large crowd

Mr Rasha was shot dead when he violated the 10pm curfew to buy a pack of cigarettes at around midnight, his relatives said.

The interior minister has announced an investigation into the death of Mr Rasha, while the police officer who allegedly fired the shot has been arrested, according to prosecutors. 

He will appear in court on Thursday, the prosecutor’s office said. 

‘The police officer did not act according to the law while using his firearm,’ Albanian police said in a statement.

Mr Rasha had violated the 10pm curfew to buy a pack of cigarettes at around midnight, his relatives said. 

Hundreds gathered to protest against the death of Mr Rasha as they demanded justice

Hundreds gathered to protest against the death of Mr Rasha as they demanded justice

Hundreds gathered to protest against the death of Mr Rasha as they demanded justice

His family have asked for the officers to be held accountable.

His sister, Sibora, told a local television station, Report TV, that Rasha had gone at 01.45 a.m. to buy cigarettes and was shot near his house’s entrance by officers who had followed him.

‘We want to know why my brother was killed, why his blood remained at the house entrance,’ she said.

Albanian authorities have imposed several lockdown measures including prohibiting gatherings, mandatory mask wearing and an overnight curfew to try to prevent a surge of new cases.  

Coronavirus cases have been spiking in recent weeks in the country of 2.8 million, where some 900 people have died since the start of the pandemic.    

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