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Albania Condemns Writer’s Defection as “Ugly Act″

October 26, 1990

TIRANA, Albania (AP) _ Albania today condemned as ″an ugly act″ the defection of the country’s leading writer, which embarrassed Communist leaders hosting their first high- level international conference in decades.

Ismail Kadare, probably Albania’s best-known public figure after President Ramiz Alia, requested political asylum Thursday during a visit to France with his wife and two daughters. France granted his request hours later.

The announcement came as Albania, seeking to emerge from decades of self- imposed isolation, hosted foreign ministers from the other five Balkan nations - Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia.

Albania is seeking to join the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. It was the only country in Europe which refused to sign the 1975 Helsinki Final Act which spawned the conference.

Officials said Thursday the timing of Kadare’s defection did not appear coincidental. ″He picked his moment,″ an official from the Albanian Journalists’ Union said on condition of anonymity.

Official Albanian media only reported the defection Friday. The official ATA news agency cited foreign media as the source of the news.

″The foreign press reports say that the writer Ismail Kadare ... requested political refuge″ in France Thursday, ATA said.

″Through this ugly act, which is a grave offence for the patriotic and civic conscience of our people, he abandoned the people and homeland and placed himself in service of the enemies of Albania and the Albanian people.″

The statement smacked of the Stalinist terminology often used by Eastern Europe’s hard-line Communist leaders before the Soviet bloc was swept by democratic revolutions late last year.

The defection dealt a blow to the Communist leadership just as it is introducing cautious reforms in the hope it can avoid the fate of Eastern Europe’s fallen Stalinists.

In a country where writers and intellectuals traditionally play a part in political movements, Kadare was seen as a spiritual leader for reform, as well as the nation’s greatest author.

Last year he was made deputy chairman of the Democratic Front, a leading Communist group, and had begun speaking out for human rights in Albania. He had strongly criticized the country’s secret police.

Some officials did not believe the news of Kadare’s defection. Foreign Minister Reis Malile suggested Thursday it was a ″set-up,″ though he did not say by whom. ″Kadare is dead. Democratization is not dead,″ Malile said, suggesting that gradual reforms would continue.

Kadare was respected, especially among the young, because of his international standing. His books are relatively well-known in France; a few have been published in the United States.

He has never been a dissident in his own country. Even under Enver Hoxha, the country’s post-World War II founder and dictator until his death in 1985, he was revered as a writer.

Kadare’s elevation by authorities to a leadership role in the ruling party indicated he was supposed to help the process of gradual reform. But in his statement from Paris Kadare said reforms weren’t coming fast enough.

″The promises made were not kept, and my disillusion, like that of the immense majority of Albanians, was all the more bitter,″ he said.

In May, Albania loosened emigration controls, and about 5,000 of the country’s 3 million citizens fled abroad.

A draft election law published this week provides for more than one candidate to contest each parliamentary seat and for secret ballots. But it does not foresee a multiparty system.

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