News 31 Jan 13

Hefty Sentences Sought For Albanian Protesters’ Deaths

Prosecutors asked a Tirana court on Wednesday to jail two former Republican Guard officers for a total of 48 years imprisonment for killing protesters in the January 21, 2011 riots.

Besar Likmeta

At the hearing, prosecutor Blerim Tominaj reconstructed the killings of the protesters at the opposition rally in front of the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

Tominaj asked the court to sentence the former head of the Republican Guard, General Ndrea Prendi, to 23 years' imprisonment and Agim Luppo, former chief of staff of a special unit of the Republican Guard, to 25 years.

“Prendi and Llulpo committed premeditated murder in aggravated circumstances,” Tominaj told the court.  

According to prosecutors, Llupo aimed at and shot dead two protestors during the violent rally, while Prendi shot 11 times with his pistol toward the crowd, killing one person.

Prendi is also accused of changing the barrel of his gun in an effort to thwart the discovery of the truth of the events.

Four protestors in total died during the protest and seven others were wounded, including a TV reporter.

Prendi told the court on Wednesday that he had acted in accordance with law.

“I was not in the courtyard of the Prime Minister’s office to kill people but to do my duty,” he said. “The Republican Guard only shot in the air, not toward the protestors,” he added.

The protest 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 opposition Socialists maintain that Berisha turned a peaceful rally into a bloodbath.

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