Albania PM Sued Over Deadly Munitions Blast

resizer115The families of the victims of a deadly ammunition blast in the village of Gerdec, ten kilometers outside Tirana, filed a civil law suit for compensatory damages on Thursday against Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

The victims’ families say Berisha has breached the constitution by not ensuring that laws and procedures for dismantling military equipment approved by the Council of Ministers were put in place ahead of the 15 March, 2008 blast.  

Together with Berisha co-defendant in the case is also former defense Minister Fatmir Mediu.

The blast at the depot in the village of Gerdec, killed 26 people, injured more than 300 and left over 3,000 homeless. According to the emergency services, 400 houses were totally destroyed, 188 were severely damaged, 200 sustained major damage and 1,600 others were slightly damaged.

The families are seeking 20 million lek (€153,000) for each of the victims of the blast.

General Prosecutor Ina Rama last week filed a case to the Supreme Court over the deadly blast, indicting 29 people, among them former high officials of the ministry of defense, accusing them with charges ranging from abuse of power to murder over their action related to the explosion.

The indicted include the former defense minister Fatmir Mediu who was charged with abuse of power and breaking tendering rules.

Apart from Mediu, the indicted also include former Chief-Staff Luan Hoxha, General Shpetim Spahiu, and General Zija Bahja. All have denied any wrongdoing. If convicted they face up to seven years in prison.

Prosecutors have also filed murder charges against Mihal Delijorgji, the owner of the Alba-Demil company that managed the demolition work at the blast site, its administrator Dritan Minxholi, and Ylli Pinari, the former head of Albania’s arms export agency MEICO that was in charge of supervising the demolition work at the site.

Sokol Ngjeci, a MEICO supervisor for the demolition site, was also charged with murder.

If found guilty, the four face between 20 years to life in prison.

Estimates published by the Albanian government say the explosion caused more than €15 million in damages to the surrounding area. The explosions began when workers were moving stocks of old Chinese and Soviet shells stored at the base, a central collection point for the arsenal amassed by the communist-era dictatorship of Enver Hoxha.

Albania has been trying for years to dismantle the obsolete arsenal, which was one of the conditions for the country’s successful entry into NATO.

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