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Albanian officials jailed over fatal ammunition explosions

20 March 2012

An Albanian court on March 12 sentenced 19 people to prison for a series of explosions at an ammunition disposal factory near Tirana four years ago that killed 26 people, destroyed or damaged 5,500 homes and injured 302.

The Gerdec explosions killed 26 and injured 302
The Gerdec explosions killed 26 and injured 302

The explosions on March 15, 2008, destroyed the disposal factory in Gerdec, near Tirana, sending shrapnel raining down on houses more than a mile away.

The court issued the guilty verdicts for 19 defendants, sentencing them to between one and 18 years on charges of gross mismanagement and related offenses, while nine others were cleared. Murder charges initially brought against them were dropped. Prosecutors had sought life imprisonment for three of the defendants.

The former head of the Defense Ministry weapons department and a senior manager at the private ammunition disposal factory were each sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, while another top ministry official and the owner of the ammunition disposal company received 10 year sentences. A former army chief-of-staff was sentenced to six years.

Other defendants were sentenced from one to four years, while the weapons disposal company was fined 25 million leks (€175,000).

Some relatives of the victims said that officials had not been properly held to account, and their lawyers vowed to appeal some of the verdicts.

The Socialist opposition blamed the incident on corrupt officials in the ruling conservative coalition, claiming they ignored safety regulations while profiting from the disposal of obsolete weapons from China and Russia.

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