The killing of ethnic Greek Kostanstinos Katsifas last Sunday has been testing Greek-Albanian relations and stirring nationalistic polarization in both countries. At the same time, any information coming from the Albanian side is being swept away from a wave of mistrust by the Greek media and certain political circles in the right-wing of the political spectrum.
The Albanian Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek ambassador to Tirana for a second time within days to complain about “the burning of an Albanian flag, anti-Albanian demonstrations threats and attacks against businesses of Albanian interests in Greece.”
On its part Greece has been urging Albania to provide more information about the killing of 36-year-old Konstantinos Katsifas, a member of the Greek minority in Albania who had also Greek citizenship.
Katsifas was killed in a massive police operation on Sunday, October 28, in the village of Vouliarates in South Albania.
Despite preliminary media reports that he was shot for having hoisted a Greek flag in the village on the occasion of the Greek National Day to commemorate the begin of the Greek-Italian war, it turned out that there was no such incident with a Greek flag.
A video posted by Albanian media showed Katsifas was firing wild in the village with a Kalashnikov rifle. Although not seen on the video, police said he was firing at officers.
He fled to the water tank of the village with a huge police force after him.
A couple of hours later, Albanian police announced that he was killed in an exchange of fire.
Katsifas’ killing triggered an outrage in Greece and a wave of mistrust towards the Albanian authorities handling with the issue.
Members of the Greek minority and “North Epirus” associations speak of “execution,” “efforts to cover up” and “alternation of evidence.”
Katsifas’ family has threatened Greek police with a lawsuit for leaking to the press that the son was charged for drugs trafficking in the past. “he was cleared of all charges,” the family said.
A Greek coroner was allowed to check the body “for five minutes” on Wednesday, the family layer told reporters. he would only manifest the victim was shot from a far range and had two gun wounds in the chest.
A Greek prosecutor in Katsifas home town Ioannina has also launched an investigation in the circumstances that led to the killing. However, the cooperation with the Albanian authorities is considered as uncertain.
The atmosphere is heated and tense with media on both sides to bring up claims that are often dismissed by reality a little later.
Five days after the killing and the Katsifas family has not received the body of their son yet to arrange his funeral.
Katsifas was supporting a union of “North Epirus” (South Albania) with Greece and was posting accordingly on his Facebook account.
His family claims that Albanian authorities had him on their target due to his love for his home country Greece.
Locals told Greek media that he was provoked by Albanian police, others claimed that the cartridges in his rifle were blank and that he did not want to shoot anyone.
Today, Thursday, Albanian media reported that the police has filmed the whole incident at the water tank and decided to shoot him down “when he shot at the police negotiator.”
Meanwhile, some North Epirus associations insists that he was killed for hoisting the Greek flag.
Far-right groups were tear-gassed in Thessaloniki on Wednesday night,when they came closed to the Albanian consulate than they should.