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News 14 Mar 13

Albania Blast Case Again Before Supreme Court

Three years after the case of the deadly blast in Gerdec village went before the Supreme Court, it now faces a new appeal.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana
Zamira Durda, right, whose 6-year old son died in a deadly 2008 explosion at an ammunition disposal factory that killed 26 people, speaks to reporters in capital Tirana Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 Durda said it was 'shameful' the verdict of the appeals court that only lowered the jail sentences for the main culprits. Photo by : AP

Albi Serjani, a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, told Balkan Insight that Tirana prosecutors on Tuesday lodged an appeal against the Appellate Court verdict, which slashed the sentences for the defendants accused of murder and disappointed victims’ families.

The blast on March 15, 2008 in the village of Gerdec, killed 26 people, wounded more than 300 and left thousands homeless.    

The explosion ripped through a former army barracks used as a collection point for old Chinese and Soviet-made shells that a Alba-Demil was demilitarizing to extract the metal.

Immediately after the explosion it emerged that the company blatantly disregarded safety rules.

On February 14, the Tirana Appeal Court slashed the sentences for the three main defendants, for whom prosecutors had sought life imprisonment for murder.  

The court cut a third off the ten-year sentence of Mihal Delijorgji, owner of Alba-Demil, the firm managing the plant. Dritan Minxholi, manager of the munitions demolition plant, sentenced to 18 years, will now only serve 12. The court also cut the sentence of the former head of Albania’s arms exports agency, Ylli Pinari, from 18 to 10 years.

The blast case was first filed before the Supreme Court in March 2009, indicting 29 people for involvement in the explosion, among them former senior defence ministry officials, and the former defence minister, Fatmir Mediu. The indictees include a former army chief of staff Luan Hoxha, and generals Shpetim Spahiu and Zija Bahja.

In May 2009, the Supreme Court assigned cases involving defendants who did not enjoy parliamentary immunity to a lower court. The Supreme Court was thus left dealing solely with Mediu.

On September 15, 2009, the Supreme Court dropped the criminal case against Mediu, however, hours after he was sworn in as minister in the new government, because of the immunity from prosecution he had obtained from his parliamentary seat.  

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