News 07 Feb 13

Albania Guardsmen Acquitted of Killing Protesters

Tirana District Court ruled on Thursday that two former officers of the Republican Guard were not guilty for the deaths of three protestors in the January 21, 2011 riots.

Besar Likmeta

The court rejected murder charges against General Nrea Prendi, former head of the Republican Guard, and Agim Llupo, former chief of staff of a special unit of the Republican Guard, arguing that there were was insufficient evidence to convict them.

“The murder charges under aggravated circumstances do not stand because all the elements of a criminal act have not been proven,” the judges’ panel said in its verdict.

According to prosecutors, Llupo aimed at, and shot dead, two protestors during the January 2011 rally, while Prendi shot with his pistol toward the crowd 11 times, killing one person. Four protestors in total died during the protest and seven others were wounded, including a TV reporter.

The protest turned into a riot when several hundred opposition marchers attacked a police barricade set up to protect the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, using sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, and later the Republican Guard used live ammunition fire.

Berisha has repeatedly called the protest a failed coup attempt, and has vowed to punish those responsible.

According to him, the anti-government protests were only the first part of the coup. He has claimed that the next phases were planned by the President, the Prosecutor General and the secret services, but has yet to present proof for his claims.

The opposition Socialists, who supported the protest, maintain that Berisha turned a peaceful rally into a bloodbath.

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