At least 16 prisoners of conscience served prison sentences of between 15 days and four months. In December, 10 former communist party officials received prison sentences of between six and eight years for "violating the equality of citizens". On a number of occasions police beat or otherwise ill-treated anti-government demonstrators. Three men died as a result of ill-treatment in police custody. A police officer shot dead an unarmed man who was fleeing from him. At least two men were executed for murder. In March a constitutional amendment was adopted by parliament which provided that fundamental human rights should be guaranteed. In November parliament reduced the number of capital offences; murder, treason, espionage and terrorist acts continued to be punishable by the death penalty. Two prisoners of conscience were imprisoned for newspaper articles they had written. In March Aleksandër Frangaj, editor of Koha Jone (Our Time), was placed under house arrest for five weeks on charges of "spreading false information liable to cause panic". He had reported that dozens of tanks had recently been transported towards the country's northern border. At his trial in May the prosecution withdrew the charges against him and he was released. In June Idajet Beqiri, the leader of an opposition political party, the National Unity Party, was placed under house arrest after the party's newspaper, Kombi (The Nation), published an article by him which the prosecution said was insulting to the President of Albania, Dr Sali Berisha. In July Idajet Beqiri was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. The sentence was confirmed on appeal and he was sent to Tirana prison. However, he was released early, in October. Neither Aleksandër Frangaj nor Idajet Beqiri had advocated violence. At least 16 men were sentenced to prison terms of between 15 and 45 days on charges of taking part in unauthorized demonstrations in July and August in Tirana and Laç. Although it was reported that some demonstrators had been violent, it appeared that at most two of those who were brought to trial were charged with using or advocating violence. Fatmir Kumbaro, a leading member of the main opposition party, the Socialist Party, was charged with organizing an unauthorized demonstration on 30 July in Tirana and sentenced to four months' imprisonment. He denied the charges against him and claimed he had been wrongly identified in a photograph of demonstrators which was produced as evidence at the trial. Police witnesses reportedly made statements in court differing from those they had previously given at a police station. On appeal, his sentence was reduced to two months' imprisonment. In December, 10 former communist party officials received prison sentences of between six and eight years for "violating the equality of citizens" by granting themselves privileges during the time they were in power. At the opening of the trial, the court banned all press reporting on the grounds that this was "in the interest of public order, national security, morality and the privacy of the accused". The ban was lifted at the end of the trial. On a number of occasions police beat with truncheons or otherwise ill-treated people taking part in anti-government demonstrations, most frequently those organized by the Socialist Party. In some cases demonstrators were peacefully exercising their right to freedom of assembly and expression. In others, where there were clashes between police and demonstrators, police sometimes used excessive force in controlling or detaining demonstrators and failed to distinguish between violent and peaceful demonstrators. On 25 June police beat between 10 and 15 members of the Greek ethnic minority, including several elderly women, in Gjirokastër during a protest against the expulsion from the country of a Greek Orthodox priest, a Greek citizen. On 30 July police beat dozens of anti-government demonstrators in Tirana when an authorized Socialist Party rally developed into a mass march to the city's main square following the arrest of the party's leader, Fatos Nano, on charges of abuse of office. Engjëll Petriti was among those beaten; he was arrested by plainclothes police who put him in a police car and hit him with truncheons causing severe bruising to his face and body. Three men died in separate incidents after being arrested and beaten by police. One of them, David Leka, died in August after being beaten in police custody in Laç; he had been arrested on suspicion of having knifed a police officer during a brawl. Romeo Gaçe was shot dead in May in Korça by a plainclothes police officer who had attempted to arrest him and was pursuing him. The authorities investigating the case later stated that Romeo Gaçe had not committed any crime and was unarmed at the time. Investigations were opened into this case and the deaths in police custody, but no one had been brought to trial by the end of the year. Two men sentenced to death in 1992 for murder were executed in September. According to a press report more than 20 people were on death row during the year. Amnesty International called for the release of prisoners of conscience and the commutation of death sentences. In July the organization wrote to President Sali Berisha about incidents in which police were alleged to have beaten demonstrators or protesters; at the end of the month an Amnesty International delegate visited the country to investigate these allegations and other concerns. In October Amnesty International published a report, Albania: Human rights abuses by police. The organization called on the authorities to set up a mechanism for the impartial and independent investigation of complaints against the police; to take steps to ensure that police officers were informed of and required to observe international guidelines for law enforcement; and to review legislation governing the right to public assembly and demonstration. In December Amnesty International urged that 10 former communist party officials on trial be given a fair and public hearing and that a ban on press reporting of their trial be lifted.

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