July 15. 2024. 8:11

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Albanian minister accused in ammunitions depot disaster to face trial

The case of former minister of defence Fatmir Mediu who is accused about the Gerdec tragedy of 2008, where the controlled detonation of obsolete ammunition went wrong and cost the lives of 26 people, has been passed for trial.

The Gerdec explosions occurred in a village of the same name, not far from the capital of Tirana, in 2008. An ex-military ammunition depot, US and Albanian munitions experts were preparing to destroy obsolete ammunition through a series of small, controlled explosions.

However, a chain of events unfolded, which led to the entire stockpile detonating simultaneously. The blast, which was heard as far away as Skopje, killed 26 people, 300 injured, 4000 evacuated, and 2306 damaged or destroyed buildings.

The prosecution office initially issued arrest warrants for the heads of several private and state-owned companies involved in the chain of events.

Mediu, a minister at the time, resigned but was reelected as an MP in 2009, and a court proceeding against him was dismissed as the court argued his immunity had been reinstated.

Prosecutors didn’t push the matter until the Special Court of Appeals Against Corruption and Organized Crime reopened the case against him 12 years later.

The case will finally make it to an abbreviated trial- a mechanism under Albanian law that foresees a faster judicial process with a lesser sentence if found guilty.

It is claimed Mediu, who was involved in overseeing the demilitarisation and dismantling of ammunition and had oversight of military persons in command, issued several by-laws in violation of the law.

According to the special court, he harmed the state’s interests by unfairly engaging two companies involved in the demilitarisation and is accused of abuse of duty as per the Criminal Code and abuse of duty within a military context.

Dorian Matlija, the lawyer of the family members of those killed in the blast, stated that the trial must occur in their presence after being refused the right to attend another session.

“The victims’ families should have been there; they had their demands. The court should have answered those requests; it has not given it. We have our own appeals options. We will definitely be present at the next session, where it will be open, and no one will be denied the opportunity to participate. We will present our demands, both in relation to today’s decision and in the process that will be done with a shortened trial,” Matlija declared.

(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)