News 09 Feb 13

Albanian Judges Accuse US of Interference

Three Albanian judges, who acquitted two Republican Guard officers of the killings of three protesters in the January 21, 2011 riots, have accused the United States of interfering in the case.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana
Ndrea Prendi, former head of the elite Republican Guard who, with another officer, an Albanian court acquitted of charges they shot dead three opposition supporters during an anti-government protest two years ago | Photo : AP/Hektor Pustina

The accusations come after the US embassy in Tirana expressed shock over the verdict, which has caused uproar in Albania, too.

“The embassy statement is troubling because it interferes in the judicial process,” the judges' panel said.

“Such statements can create prejudices toward this impartial verdict,” they added.

Tirana’s District Court on Thursday 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.

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

The prosecutor’s conclusions were backed by ballistics evidence, including expertise from the FBI Crime Lab.

On Thursday, the US embassy in Tirana said the verdict raised questions about the independence of the judiciary in Albania.

“We are dismayed by the decision of the Tirana District Court to acquit the two defendants who stood trial on charges related to the deaths of three civilian protestors on January 21, 2011,” the embassy said.

“Regrettably, today’s verdict has undermined confidence in the ability and willingness of the Albanian judicial system to deliver justice in an impartial, transparent manner,” it added.

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