An Athens prosecutor is to launch an investigation into the circumstances that led to the fatal shooting of an ethnic Greek man by police in southern Albania on Sunday after it emerged that the 35-year-old had Greek citizenship.
The case file was sent to Athens by a prosecutor in Ioannina, northwestern Greece, after the sister of Konstantinos Katsifas presented his identity card to judicial authorities to prove that he is Greek so that a probe can be launched here.
There had been no official response by late Tuesday night to a request by Katsifas’s family for a Greek coroner to examine their son’s body. The Greek Embassy in Tirana submitted the family’s request to Albania’s General Prosecutor’s Office.
A key concern is that the body of the 35-year-old has been at the hospital in Gjirokaster (Argyrokastro) for three days, as there is no morgue, and the burial cannot be put off much longer. There are also worries about tensions building in the community ahead of Katsifas’s funeral in the coming days.
The exact circumstances of Katsifas’s shooting remained unclear on Tuesday night. Albanian police reportedly claim to have acted in accordance with regulations in responding to Katsifas who was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
According to their version of events, the 35-year-old opened fire at officers, despite repeated calls for him to disarm, and they eventually killed him – with two shots to the head and chest – when no other course of action remained.
Local media said Albanian police were keen to ensure that no harm came to some 300 people who had been attending a service at a cemetery for fallen Greek soldiers not far from the standoff.
Greece’s Culture Minister Myrsini Zorba was reportedly among those attending the service. Earlier that day Katsifas and other members of the Greek community of Bularat had raised a Greek flag at the cemetery, marking Greece’s national holiday commemorating the country’s entry into World War II against Italy.
Relatives of Katsifas and members of the Greek community accuse the Albanian police of “executing” the 35-year-old, saying he only fired his gun into the air after being provoked by officers, and did not shoot at them.