Tear gas fired in Albania during concert by Bosnian Serbian singer
Albanian police have arrested two people for allegedly throwing tear gas canisters at a concert by a Bosnian Serb musician who many in the country accuse of failing to condemn the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.
A statement said Redon Leka, 21, was arrested after throwing a tear gas canister while songwriter Goran Bregovic was performing at the Korca Beer Fest on Sunday night, 165 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of the capital, Tirana.
Another man was arrested after trying to stop the police from taking Leka away.
Bregovic didn’t stop singing but the tear gas caused panic among some fans.
Bregovic’s presence had sparked a national debate, with some condemning him for failing to denounce Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians in neighboring Kosovo. Others said an artist shouldn’t get involved in politics.
Prime Minister Edi Rama denounced the criticism of Bregovic as “medieval hysteria” against “one of the most extraordinary musicians in the Balkans”. He said the singer had not said anything against the Albanians and had never been a supporter of the Serbian regime in times of war.
“It was fascist hysteria, shameful for the European citizenship of the Albanians, for our history and our tradition,” Rama wrote on his Facebook page.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after the 1998-1999 war with Serbian forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign drove out Serbian troops and a peacekeeping force arrived.
Most Western countries have recognized Kosovo, but not Serbia and its allies, Russia and China. Tensions over Kosovo remain a source of volatility in the Balkans.
Bregovic traveled to Albania in 2006 and held a concert, also receiving a symbolic key to Tirana from Rama, who was mayor at the time. His presence then did not trigger a reaction.
The branch of the Kosovo Self-Determination Movement in Albania has denied allegations in local media that it organized the tear gas incident. A few days earlier, his supporters had protested against Bregovic’s participation in the Korca festival.