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Albania opposition leader fined for defaming ruling lawmaker

January 21, 2019
FILE - In this file photo dated Saturday, May 13, 2017, Lulzim Basha, Leader of Albania's main opposition Democratic Party speaks to supporters during a protest to demand a caretaker cabinet to take the country to the June 18 parliamentary election. An Albanian court on Monday Jan. 21, 2019, has convicted Lulzim Basha of defamation over drug-related allegations he made against a senior governing lawmaker. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, FILE)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An Albanian court has convicted the main opposition Democratic Party leader of defamation over drug-related allegations he made against a senior governing lawmaker.

Democratic leader Lulzim Basha was fined 50,000 lek ($455) in a ruling by a Tirana district court judge on Monday.

Taulant Balla, head of the Socialist party parliamentary group, had opened a case after Basha accused him in parliament of being linked to 3.4 million euros ($3.8 million) in cash allegedly belonged to drug traffickers that was found in two cars imported from Germany.

Basha’s lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.

Four people linked to the cash are still under investigation.

Fighting drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption remain top priorities for Albania, which is seeking to launch European Union membership negotiations later this year.

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