Albanian court jails 18 over deadly explosion
TIRANA (Reuters) - An Albanian court jailed 18 former officials on Monday over a deadly munitions explosion four years ago that killed 26 people and injured more than 300.
The court handed sentences ranging from one to 18 years to the defendants for failing follow safety regulations when destroying military equipment.
The ruling angered the victims' relatives who said they wanted a harsher verdict, saying it hurt them as much as the blast at the base stocking obsolete munitions for destruction near the capital Tirana.
The explosions had started when workers were moving stocks of old Chinese and Soviet shells stored at the base, a collection point for the arsenal amassed by a communist-era dictatorship preparing for an invasion that never came.
"We, the families of the Gerdec explosion victims, still ask today... who killed our loved ones?" the victims' families said in a joint statement. "Justice was not only delayed but also failed," they said.
Ylli Pinari, a former top defence ministry official who headed its weapons trading department, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, while Dritan Minxolli and Mihal Delijorgji, the businessmen who ran the plant, were jailed for 18 and 10 years respectively.
All three were cleared of murder charges.
Luan Hoxha, the former head of the armed forces, was sentenced to six years in jail. Hoxha has left Albania and is now living in the United States, according to media reports.
"But who killed our loved ones remains yet an enigma," the families said through a lawyer. "We faced mass murder and that crime must have been judged as such."
(Reporting By Benet Koleka)
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