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Fresh clashes in Albania over death of a man shot by police during COVID-19 curfew

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Fresh clashes in Albania over death of a man shot by police during COVID-19 curfew
Copyright  Hektor Pustina/AP
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Demonstrators and police violently clashed for a third day on Friday in the Albanian capital Tirana over the death of a man who was shot by police enforcing a covid-linked curfew.

Defying a ban on public gatherings due to the pandemic, a crowd threw stones, flares, firecrackers and fireworks at police guarding the main government building.

Officers responded with tear gas and water cannon.

The protests follow the death of Klodian Rasha in Tirana during curfew hours early on Tuesday. Police say he ignored officers’ calls to stop, and ran away.

Earlier on Friday a court ruled that the police officer who fired the fatal shots would stay under arrest while he's investigated for "homicide in excess of necessary self-defence".

The protests have triggered wider political tensions between the Socialist government and main opposition party.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has apologised for what he called the "inexplicable and completely unreasonable" shooting and his interior minister resigned on Thursday but that failed to dampen the protests, which spread to at least another three cities.

The centre-right main opposition Democratic Party has demanded Rama's resignation.

"The time of change has come and we cannot continue like this anymore," said party leader Lulzim Basha. "Together we shall get rid of Rama".

The prime minister hit back on Friday, accusing the Democratic Party and opposition-rooted President Ilir Meta of inciting the violent protests.

"The opposition and the president are not only the inciters but also the orchestrators of the violence which is demeaning Klodian’s memory, allegedly in the name of justice but in fact for (their) political purposes," Rama posted on Twitter.

Albania is due to hold parliamentary elections in April 2021.

During the first two days of violence, police arrested 62 people and a total 116 have been charged with holding an illegal protest during the pandemic, as well as with arson and public order breaches.

Authorities say 21 policemen and four protesters have been injured.

Police said they should not be blamed for the shooting.

"No one should compare the police with an individual who committed a legally punishable act," a police statement said Friday.