Albania condemns late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha for presiding over one of Europe's most brutal communist regimes, but his victims said on Thursday the state should go further and strip him of his medals.
Adrian Kati, executive director of the Albanian Centre for the Rehabiliation of Trauma and Torture, said he had appealed to President Bamir Topi for help on the matter, who in turn encouraged the group to pursue legal steps.
"We have verified that Enver Hoxha still holds the titles and decorations 'Hero of the People,' 'Hero of Socialist Labour,' 'Hero of the Peoples of Yugoslavia' and 'Hero of the Peoples of the Soviet Union,' among others," Kati said.
Hoxha often wore the medals during ceremonial occasions such as liberation day parades.
"It will be just and moral for Albanians to have him stripped of all these (awards) ahead of the 20th anniversary of the toppling of his statue in the Albanian capital," Kati added.
Angry crowds toppled Hoxha's statue on February 1991 in what marked the end of an era of fear for many Albanians.
Hoxha took power at the end of World War Two after leading his communist partisans against Italian and German occupying forces as well as battling Albanian nationalists and monarchists.
He ruled with an iron fist until his death in April 1985, five years before communism collapsed in Albania.
About 5,000 men and 450 women were executed under Hoxha's rule and up to 34,135 people were jailed, including 1,000 who died. Many families are still looking for remains of their executed relatives.
"Meawhile, Albania's political class has not been able to judge and condemn Hoxha for crimes committed openly under his personal leadership and responsibility," Kati said.
Hoxha's widow, Nexhmije, and his handpicked successor Ramiz Alia were tried and sentenced to jail terms for petty financial abuses. Nexhmije protested loudly six years ago when the Defence Ministry refused to recognise Hoxha as a World War Two veteran.
1,500 people have been pardoned, linked to upcoming celebrations on October 27 and 28 of 25 years since the Central Asian country left the Soviet Union.
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