The US Embassy in Tirana has expressed shock at the acquittal of two Republican Guard officers accused of the murder of three protesters during the January 21, 2011 riots.“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 US 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.
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 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 prosecutor’s conclusions were backed by ballistics evidence, including expertise from the FBI Crime Lab.
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.