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Former head of government Sali Berisha in Albania's capital Tirana in mid-December

Photo: Armando Babani / AP

A court in Albania has ordered house arrest for former Prime Minister Sali Berisha. The opposition politician is currently under investigation for possible corruption. Judge Irena Gjoka granted the prosecution's request to place the 79-year-old Berisha under house arrest after he violated a bi-weekly reporting requirement. He had also been prohibited from travelling abroad.

Berisha's lawyer, Genc Gjokutaj, said the court also prohibited Berisha from communicating with anyone other than his family, who live with him, and considered the order a violation of the law.

The communication ban against Berisha could develop into a far-reaching political problem, Berisha is the leader of the largest opposition force – the Democratic Party of Albania (PD). Gjokutaj said he would appeal the court order.

The public prosecutor's office, which specializes in corruption and organized crime, accuses Berisha of privatizing a state-owned sports complex in the capital Tirana for the benefit of his son-in-law Jamarber Malltezi during his tenure as head of government in 2008. He had already been arrested in October, placed under house arrest and charged with corruption and money laundering.

Berisha considers investigations "political"

The right-wing ex-head of government has long denied any wrongdoing and described the investigations as "purely political". He accused the incumbent head of government, Edi Rama, of initiating the investigation. At the beginning of December, there was a blatant PD protest with pyro in the Albanian parliament because of the proceedings against Berisha.

Last week, the Albanian parliament lifted the immunity of the former head of government, clearing the way for a possible arrest. 75 of the 140 MPs had spoken out in favour of the move. The vote was taken at the request of the prosecutor's office after Berisha refused to cooperate with the authorities in the investigation.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Berisha was the first democratically elected president in Albania. Until 2013, he was also the head of government of the Balkan state for eight years. Last year, he was banned from entering the U.S. and the U.K. for alleged involvement in corruption and organized crime. Berisha rejected these accusations.