In Tirana, the Special Court against Corruption and Organized Crime approved today the list of witnesses who will be questioned in the process against the former Minister of Defense Fatmir Mediu, in the case of the explosion of the munitions dismantling factory in Gërdec, in 2008, where 26 people were killed, while over 250 others were injured.
The court fully approved the list presented by the Special Prosecutor’s Office, while overturning the vast majority of the names in the list presented by the defense of Mr. Mediu. The court did not evaluate as valid the call of a large number of local and foreign politicians, or former government officials and former ministers of defense, while regarding the experts who carried out the assessment, it stated that for them, it would decide at a second moment, depending on the progress of the process.
The Court’s decision-making was criticized by defense lawyers, former ministers who spoke of a double standard, “where on the one hand the Prosecution’s witnesses are blindly accepted, while those of the defense are rejected”, lawyer Ardian Visha declared after the hearing, adding that ” the court is obliged to express with acceptance or rejection, not with reservation of the right to express. This is something that the law does not allow,” he said, referring to the attitude of the experts.
In the list approved by the Court, of 72 people, to be summoned to give their testimony, a large part are family members of the victims of the Gërdec explosion or the injured. While another part are former officials, former soldiers or former entrepreneurs and factory managers in Gërdec, who were convicted in the process developed many years ago. Mr. Shkëlzen Berisha, the son of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, is also part of the list, as a witness requested by the Special Prosecutor’s Office, together with former Minister of Justice Aldo Bumçi. Although the name of Mr. Shkëlzen Berisha was often mentioned after the explosion, due to suspected connections with the affair of the dismantling of ammunition or the sale of cartridges to an American company, the son of the former prime minister was never questioned during the investigations into the explosion of Gërdec and nor was he called to testify at trial.
The trial against Mr. Mediu was triggered by a complaint by the Durda family, who lost their son in the explosion at that time. The former minister is accused of “Misuse of duty” committed in cooperation, and “Misuse of duty” in cooperation with a military subject-command cadre. The same accusations that were raised against him in 2009 by the General Prosecutor’s Office, but for which Mr. Mediu was never tried, since in the summer of that year he regained the mandate of the deputy.
In parallel with the judicial process that has started, the Special Prosecutor’s Office has also registered another criminal proceeding for “Passive corruption of high state officials or local elected officials” and “Cleaning of the proceeds of a criminal offense or criminal activity”, related to the procedures of followed at that time by the Ministry of Defense, for the sale of ammunition to private companies. An investigation for which, however, no one has been charged.