Three activists released pending trial for protesting against controversial oil terminal construction in Vlora
The district court in Vlora, Albania last week released three members of the Civic Alliance for the Protection of Vlora Bay  who were arrested and detained for two weeks after protesting against the construction of a hydrocarbons terminal in Vlora. The terminal, regarded by the protestors as bringing few benefits to the local economy in exchange for high environmental risks, is being built by the Italian investor La Petrolifera Italo Rumena. The project is currently seeking a EUR 15 million credit from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
14 April 2008
The district court in Vlora, Albania last week released three members of the Civic Alliance for the Protection of Vlora Bay  who were arrested and detained for two weeks after protesting against the construction of a hydrocarbons terminal in Vlora. The terminal, regarded by the protestors as bringing few benefits to the local economy in exchange for high environmental risks, is being built by the Italian investor La Petrolifera Italo Rumena. The project is currently seeking a EUR 15 million credit from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). 
The protesters were arrested and detained for obstructing traffic on March 31 after chaining themselves together to prevent the coastal storage construction trucks from circulating in the city centre in the evening.  The released activists, who are now obliged to report to the law enforcement office twice a week, are pending trial.
The recent police arrest is being seen as an attempt by the Albanian authorities to fulfill their obligations to the foreign investor and to guarantee public order and safe use of the terminal construction site as dictated by the project’s Concession Agreement.
Lavdosh Ferruni, the Secretary of the Civic Alliance for the Protection of Vlora Bay, said: “The concession is unfavourable for Albania because it grants the Italian investor ownership of 183 000 square metres for a symbolic price, an exclusive tax regime and rights to be the sole operator. We fear the terminal and the tankers will pollute Vlora Bay and hugely impact Vlora’s attractiveness as a tourist destination. We are determined to continue the protests that we initiated in September last year in order to open the way to a local referendum or to stop the building works.”
Prominent Albanian intellectuals, civil society organisations and the media issued protest statements and demonstrated against the violations of freedom of speech and the poor conditions experienced by the detainees in the detention centre. The Albanian Helsinki Committee visited the Vlora police station and was appalled by the conditions of the detention rooms and that a defense lawyer was not allowed to have contact with two of the detainees.
Vasilika Hysi, Executive Director of the Albanian Helsinki Committee, commented: “When we arrived to the station, nineteen people were kept in rooms with a maximum capacity of six persons each. One room was furnished with a mattress and the other had only blankets. The rooms lacked windows and minimal hygenic conditions, were poorly ventilated and the floor was littered.“
Andi Kananaj, lawyer of the MJAFT! Movement, said: “As the leaders of the Alliance are under house arrest, the repression of the freedom of speech and human rights continues even after their liberation from detention.“
Last week CEE Bankwatch Network released a report on the Vlora coastal terminal that describes how the EBRD’s engagement in industrial and energy projects reflects the lack of a coherent development strategy for the Vlora district. According to the report, there are indications that the EBRD’s management has failed to ensure compliance with the bank’s environmental standards during the terminal’s environmental appraisal. 
For more information
Civic Alliance for the Protection of Vlora Bay
Tel: +355 4 250575
Mob: +355 (0) 69 209 9047
Email: lferruni AT icc-al.org
Albanian Helsinki Committee
Tel: +355 4 23 36 71
E-mail:v.hysi AT ahc.org.al
Director of Communications
Tel. +355 4 223661
Mob: + 355 68 2056 037
Email: kristi AT mjaft.org
Notes for editors
 The Civic Alliance for the Protection of the Vlora Bay was established in 2005 with the aim to protect the sustainable development of the city of Vlora. It has opposed the development of a coastal terminal and a thermo-power plant north of the town due to the risks these projects pose for the sensitive ecosystems and a local economy based on tourism. The Alliance has also complained about the lack of opportunities for the affected community to engage in the decision-making process.
 Besides the terminal, a construction on the 97 MW and 110 million EUR thermo-power plant is taking place in Vlora with support of the World Bank’s International Development Association, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.
 A local regulation allows the construction trucks to pass through the city up to 11.00 pm.
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