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Police Battle Albanians Protesting Investment Scam

February 06, 1997| From Associated Press

VLORA, Albania — Police fired water cannons and plastic bullets Wednesday at thousands of Albanian protesters infuriated by the failure of another investment scheme that swallowed up their savings.

Officers fired into the air from a police van as it cruised along a boulevard of this southern port city, and masked policemen beat one demonstrator until he lay bloody and motionless on the ground.

Police also picked up stones hurled by the protesters and threw them back at the crowd. Many people were hit.

The protest began after the Gjallica investment fund, based in Vlora, announced that it would not pay investors today as it had promised when it shut its doors several weeks ago. Three other get-rich-quick schemes also have failed or had their assets seized by the government.

Protesters hit the streets Wednesday at the news of the latest failure. About 10,000 people rallied in Vlora, some shouting, "Down with [Sali] Berisha!"--the Albanian president blamed for the worst social and economic crisis since the ouster of the Communist regime five years ago.

About 4,000 people moved toward the port but were cut off by police. When the crowd headed back downtown, police opened up with water cannons.

One demonstrator, Selaudin Aliaj, 28, had returned from Greece to try to reclaim money invested in the scheme. He was beaten by masked police officers, who kicked him before taking him away in a van.

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