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Albanian court reopens case against former defense minister over fatal blast

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Fatmir Mediu was initially charged with breach of duty in 2009 before the case wa dismissed.
Fatmir Mediu was initially charged with breach of duty in 2009 before the case wa dismissed.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, File   -  

Albania's former defence minister is facing a fresh investigation over a deadly blast at a munitions factory in 2008.

Fatmir Mediu has denied any wrongdoing related to the explosion in Gerdec, which killed 26 people.

But an Albanian court ruled to reopen the case against him on Friday, following a request by victims' families.

The decision was made by Judge Saida Dollani of the Tirana Appeals Special Court Against Corruption and Organised Crime, which handles top officials' corruption cases.

A charge for abuse of power against Mediu was dismissed in 2009 because he held immunity from prosecution as a re-elected member of parliament. He resigned from his governmental position two days after the explosion.

But parliamentary immunity from criminal cases was abolished in Albania in 2012.

Mediu remains a member of parliament with an opposition party and says the decision to reopen the investigation is politically motivated.

The case resumed following a request from Zamira Durda and her husband Feruzan, whose six-year-old son was killed while playing in the backyard of their home in Gerdec.

The explosion at a munitions depot factory - where stockpiles of ammunition were dumped for destruction - injured at least 264 others.

Around 5,500 houses near the capital city, Tirana, were also damaged.

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