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News 21 Jan 13

Albania Opposition Remember Riot Deaths

The opposition Socialists are expected to hold a memorial rally on Monday for four supporters, killed when police opened fire on protesters on January 21, 2011.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana

The protest held two years ago in Tirana 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.

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

According to Berisha, 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 any proof for his claims.

Meanwhile, the Socialists maintain that Berisha turned a peaceful rally into a bloodbath.

Three officials have been indicted for the fatalities, including the former head of the Republican Guard, General Ndrea Prendi.

Apart from Prendi, two other members of the Republican Guard are accused in the high-profile trial.

Prendi, together with Agim Luppo, former chief of staff of a special unit of the Republican Guard, are accused of murder under aggravated circumstances. They face a minimum of 20 years to life imprisonment if found guilty.

Prendi’s former driver, Margarit Kume, is charged with “actions that hindered the discovery of the truth" and risks up to three years' imprisonment.

Prosecutors are expected to deliver their closing arguments on the case on January 30.

On the eve of the anniversary, the US embassy in Tirana described the late protestors as victims of "senseless acts of violence" and called for justice to be done.

“Now more than ever, the need exists for a full accounting of the January 21 events through a credible judicial process, free from political interference,” the embassy said. 

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