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Prosecutors bid to put Albania's ex-defence minister on trial over 2008 blast

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By Euronews  with AP
Fatmir Mediu, Albania's former defense minister, has denied any wrongdoing
Fatmir Mediu, Albania's former defense minister, has denied any wrongdoing   -   Copyright  GENT SHKULLAKU / AFP

Albanian prosecutors are seeking to try the country's former defence minister over a deadly factory explosion in 2008.

The blast at a munitions depot factory at Gerdec - where stockpiles of ammunition were dumped for destruction - killed 26 people and injured at least 264 others.

Around 5,500 houses were also damaged after the explosion ripped through the region outside the capital Tirana.

Albania's then-defence minister, Fatmir Mediu, was subsequently charged with abuse of power, although the case against him was dropped. He resigned from his governmental position two days after the explosion.

But on Thursday, more than a decade later, prosecutors have asked Supreme Court judges to allow Mediu to go on trial.

The Special Prosecution Against Corruption (SPAK) formally requested that the court revoke its 2009 dismissal of the criminal case.

Mediu had been spared trial because he had been re-elected to parliament and lawmakers had immunity at the time.

The former minister remains a member of parliament with an opposition party, but Albania has since abolished politicians' immunity in criminal cases.

Mediu has denied wrongdoing and says that the SPAK move was politically motivated.

AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, FILE
Houses in the village of Gerdec were destroyed in the explosion on March 15, 2008.AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, FILE

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."

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

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