Albania’s Supreme Court orders prosecutors to resume a probe of the 2011 killing of 4 protesters

Albania’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered prosecutors to resume the investigation into the killing of a protester at an anti-government rally in 2011, according to AP News.

Four Socialist Party supporters were killed by police on January 21, 2011, in front of the main government building while they were protesting against alleged corruption and vote-rigging by the government of then-Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

Two police officers were jailed for the death of three of them but no one was charged in the death of the fourth protester, Aleks Nika.

His widow’s request to further investigate the killing was turned down by the Albanian courts. She took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which last year decided that the Albanian judiciary should resume the case.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision orders the Special Prosecutors’ Office Against Corruption and Organized Crime, which deals with top government officials and politicians, to resume the criminal case over Nika’s death.

Nika’s widow says she has evidence of an order from top officials to open fire on the protesters and wants top police officials to be questioned, as well as Berisha and the interior minister at the time, Lulzim Basha.

Berisha is under house arrest and under investigation in a corruption case for allegedly assisting his son-in-law to obtain public land.

In the case relating to the other three protesters who died, the two police officers were sentenced to one and three years in prison, which families of the dead considered insufficient. Prosecutors had sought a total of 45 years.

The 2001 protest in Tirana turned into a riot when several thousand opposition marchers attacked police and tried to enter Berisha’s office, using sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

When the protest was dying out in the afternoon, police officers used live ammunition fire, killing the four protesters and wounding seven other people, including a TV reporter.

Berisha condemned the protest as a failed coup attempt. The opposition Socialists accused Berisha of authorizing police to use lethal force — a claim he has rejected.

Socialist Party leader and Prime Minister Edi Rama hailed the decision. He said it gave hope to Albanians that the “wild state crime” might one day be resolved despite “Albania’s rotten justice.”