Albanian officials want ex-minister tried over deadly blast

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian prosecutors on Thursday asked Supreme Court judges to allow the trial of a former defense minister over a massive munitions disposal factory blast that killed 26 people in 2008, more than a decade after the case against him was dropped.

The Special Prosecution Against Corruption, or SPAK, formally asked the Supreme Court to revoke its 2009 dismissal of the criminal case against Fatmir Mediu. At the time, Mediu had been spared trial because he had been re-elected to parliament and then lawmakers had immunity.

He is still a member of parliament with an opposition party, but that form of immunity in criminal cases has since been abolished.

Mediu denied wrongdoing and said Thursday that the SPAK move was politically motivated.

The March 15, 2008 explosions at Gerdec, outside the capital, Tirana, killed 26 people, injured 264 and damaged about 5,500 houses. Mediu had been subsequently charged with abuse of power.

In 2012 a court convicted and jailed 19 people over the accident, but angry relatives of the victims complained that top government officials had evaded justice.

The request to resume the case against Mediu followed an appeal to SPAK by Zamira Durda and her husband Feruzan Durda, whose six-year-old son was killed while playing in the back yard of their home near the blast site.

“That is the motive of my life, gaining justice for my son,” said Zamira Durda. “Everything in the Gerdec case should resume from scratch, not only the former minister.”

SPAK was formed under a judicial reform in 2016, prepared with help from European Union and United States experts and intended to ensure political independence for judges and prosecutors and to root out bribery.

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