Albania bids farewell to ex-president Bujar Nishani

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An official funeral ceremony was held Thursday for former Albanian President Bujar Nishani, who died as a result of an undisclosed, long-running illness at the age of 55.

Thousands of people, including the president, parliament speaker, government ministers and politicians, paid their respects to Nishani at the presidential office in the capital, Tirana.

Kosovo’s president and former Albanian and Kosovar presidents took part as well, remembering Nishani as a man committed to working for democracy in Albania’s post-communist years.

“He was set and committed to building up the rule of law and guaranteeing the citizens’ human rights and basic freedom. He worked to strengthen the spirit of tolerance and religious coexistence in the country,” Albanian President Ilir Meta said in his eulogy.

People walked alongside Nishani’s funeral coach in Tirana’s Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard before he was taken to the public cemetery.

Nishani died in Germany on Saturday following a serious health problem. Albanian media have said he had an auto-immune disease which got worse after he contracted COVID-19 more than a month ago.

National flags flew at half-staff on Thursday as a day of national morning was declared.

Nishani was elected in 2012 at the age of 45 to become the sixth president in post-communist Albania — and its youngest. He served as the head of state until 2017.

Before that, Nishani had served as the country’s interior and justice ministers, and was widely viewed as being mild-mannered and non-confrontational by the usual standards of Albanian politics.

Born in the port city of Durres, about 35 kilometers (20 miles) west of capital of Tirana, Nishani graduated from a military academy and later a law faculty. He first lectured at the military academy and then worked in senior jobs in Albania’s Defense Ministry. He was elected a lawmaker in 2005.

Nishani is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

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Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

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