From: Exit Staff
Albanian Court Approves Arrests of Air Traffic Controllers for Suspending Work 

A first instance court in Albania decided for two arrested air traffic controllers to remain in prison and one in house arrest.

The Court of Tirana approved the prosecution request on Saturday not to release the three arrested air traffic controllers who face charges of abuse of office. Armando Fezga and Muhin Mezini will await trial in prison, Flora Ndreca in house arrest.

Albanian authorities detained 28 air traffic controllers on Thursday, nearly half of the total. Three of them were arrested and the rest were released shortly after.

It came after they suspended their work after reporting their inability to work due to high stress levels stemming from cuts in salary and refusal of the government to listen to their pleas. The government sent in the army to secure the airport. Air traffic in Albania was suspended for one day.

Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Transportation Belinda Balluku accused them of attempting to stage a coup d’etat backed by President Ilir Meta and former opposition MP Sali Berisha. They both slammed Rama for the situation and denied accusations.

Following their arrests, the government replaced a number of Albanian air traffic controllers with Turkish ones. Rama said they are also waiting for Greek air traffic controllers to arrive and “share their experience” with their Turkish colleagues at the only international airport in Albania. No report of their arrival has been made public so far.

The Ministry of Transport issued an order on Thursday, allowing for foreign air traffic controllers authorized by the International Civil Aviation Organization to take over in emergency situations in Albania.

Rama and Balluku stepped back from their accusation of “coup d’etat” following the arrests of air traffic controllers.

The Prime Minister later said calling it “a coup d’etat” by the President was a strong reaction, but it was “a coup” agitated by Meta and Berisha to stop Albanians from receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

Balluku also refused to reuse the “coup d’etat” term and said it was an “unprecedented situation”. She added that the issue “should cease to be in the focus of public attention” now that justice is taking care of it.

The European union of air traffic controllers blasted the government intervention and arrests of their colleagues.