Former Albanian police officer jailed for killing that sparked major protests

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By Euronews  with AP
The fatal shooting led to days of protests in Albania's capital city in December.
The fatal shooting led to days of protests in Albania's capital city in December.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Hektor Pustina

A former police officer has been jailed for the fatal shooting of a man in Albania, which sparked mass demonstrations.

Klodian Rasha was shot and killed by the authorities during a COVID-19 curfew patrol in Tirana in December. Police said he ignored officers’ calls to stop and fled.

On Wednesday, an Albanian court convicted former officer Nevaldo Hajdaraj of "homicide in excess of necessary self-defense" and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment.

The fatal police shooting sparked a week of violent protests in Albania, despite a COVID-19 ban on public gatherings.

Hajdaraj was sacked after the incident, acknowledged the shooting, and told the court he regretted his actions.

But the family of the victim has expressed their anger after the former officer's sentence was reduced for admitting the crime.

"How could you call this justice when everything is clear but with a pen you turn it into a restricted judgment?" said Rasha's father, Qazim.

The death of the 25-year-old man near his home in the Albanian capital led to mass rallies outside the country's government buildings.

Demonstrators threw stones, flares, firecrackers, and fireworks at the police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Public anger over the shooting also led to the resignation of Albania's Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj.

Albania's President, Ilir Meta, said in December that the "tragic" incident had "deeply shaken" everyone in the country, and blamed officials for increasing police violence.

The protests also triggered wider political tensions between the Socialist government and the main opposition party. Albania is due to hold parliamentary elections in April 2021.