"They want to silence the Greeks of the Northern Epirus": Omonia representative

Picture of the official declaration of Northern Epirote Independence in Gjirokastër (1 March 1914).

A recent sentencing of a Greek from Northern Epirus in Albania has provoked reactions as he was accused of inciting hatred and riots after his participation in a Greek commemoration event in 2018.

A representative of the Greek minority sees the specific strategy of the Albanian state towards the supporters of northern Hellenism.

Monti Kolila, the accused, was reportedly sentenced to 8.5 years in prison.

Northern Epirus Monti Kolila Greek
Monti Kolila.

However, the case is still at the first instance, and the sentence will be final if there is a conviction in the Court of Appeals of the Albanian authorities.

The charges refers to his presence at a May 12, 2018 event in the village of Vouliarates (Βουλιαράτες, Albanian: Bularat) in Argyrokastro (Αργυρόκαστρο, Albanian: Gjirokastër)  as part of celebrations for the 104th Anniversary of the Autonomy of Northern Epirus.

He even delivered the main speech of the day.

Kolila was not even summoned on the day of the trial, nor was his defence lawyer, who in fact allegedly had COVID-19.

He is charged with three counts of "inciting hatred and rioting, disseminating unconstitutional texts, and organising and participating in illegal gatherings and rallies".

The rationale behind the decision

Leonidas Pappas, a representative of the Greek minority and a member of the expatriate organization for the Greeks of Albania, "Omonia," sees a specific strategy of the Albanian state towards the supporters of northern Hellenism.

"After the murder of Kostas Katsifas in October 2018, there is a strategy by the Albanian authorities towards those who are active regarding the issues of Hellenism in northern Epirus," he said.

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Konstantinos Katsifas.

Kolilas is a relative of Aristotle Gouma, who in 2010 was killed by Albanians in Himarra (Χειμάρρα, Albanian: Himarë), causing an "earthquake" within the Greek minority.

"Active in events, in speeches in favor of the rights and the history of the Greeks of the region, this is a person who has nothing to do with extreme elements," clarified Pappas.

"When the Albanian state was created after the Balkan Wars, our ancestors expected that the Greeks of Northern Epirus would be integrated into Greece," added the representative of Omonia.

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Northern Epirus within Albania.

"But this did not happen and the Greek army withdrew, respecting the Florence Treaty," Pappas explained.

"Eventually the northerners reacted and started an armed struggle then, but Albania signed the Corfu Protocol and considered the region autonomous," he continued.

"This tradition was honoured by Kolilas, on May 12, 2018," the representative said.

"The Albanians did not like him and they targeted him," he continued, adding "This is also evident from the involvement of the anti-terrorist unit."

"They want to silence the Hellenism of Northern Epirus in every way," concluded Pappas.

READ MORE: Greek in Northern Epirus sentenced to over 8 years in prison for “inciting hatred."