Former defence minister charged over deadly ammo depot blast

Other News Materials 11 February 2009 18:44 (UTC +04:00)

Albanian prosecutors on Wednesday raised criminal charges against former defence minister Fatmir Mejdiu and four other high-ranking officials over a blast in a munitions depot in March 2008, dpa reported.

The explosion of hundreds of tons of decades-old ordnance at Gerdece, near the capital Tirana, killed 26, injured more than 300 and left 3,000 people homeless.

Fatmir Mediu has been accused for "abuse of power" over his decision to "determine Gerdece as a place for disarmament of ammunition," Mediu's lawyer Ardian Visha said in a statement.

Former chief of staff Luan Hoxha as well as two other former commanders in Albanian Army and former Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence are also charged for the abuse of power.

The ordnance went off amid lax security measures implemented during the clean-out of the depot, in which ammunition had been stored for decades under the iron-handed communist regime.

Several people involved in the clean-out operation were already indicted and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The operation was a part of a broad effort to decommission obsolete ordnance and weapons as part of Albania's approach to NATO. Tirana was asked to join the alliance shortly after the Gerdec blast.