The death of Konstantinos Katsifas in a gunfight with Albanian special forces on Sunday, the circumstances of which have yet to be clarified, has undoubtedly cast a shadow on the already tense and delicate bilateral relations between Greece and Albania.
The Greek Foreign Ministry, at the behest of acting Minister Greek PM Alexis Tsipras proceeded to issue a formal remonstration to the Albanian diplomatic authorities in Athens over the tragic incident, while Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s inflammatory post defending the actions of the Albanian police, while calling the victim a “madman” and an “extremist” did not help in de-escalating the situation.
Adding to the already intense atmosphere was a provocative banner at the football match of Partizan Tirana, the chairman of which is the brother of OM Edi Rama, which read: “One Greek dead, is one less bastard”.
The Albanian Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati flowed along the same line, issuing a statement in which it speaks of an unjustified politicisation of the incident and that it is a blatant case of extremist aggression, referring to the victim’s actions.
Albanian media added more fuel to the fire with popular reporter Artan Hotza posting on social media that it was preferable for Greek mothers to cry than for Albanian mothers be dressed in black.
With little details of any significance released about the circumstance surrounding the victim’s death, the involvement of the Greek police through leaks on the event raises some serious questions. The Greek police, which has no jurisdiction or responsibility for an event that occurred in Albania, was quick to confirm the explanation provided by Albanian police that Katsifas had shot a police vehicle passing by during the incident, effectively adopting a contrary stance to the official one of the Greek government. How does the Greek police know the details of how many bullet cases were found in the gunfire exchange? It appears to be acting, inadvertently (?), as a mouthpiece of the Albanian police. However, the Greek police’s leak of information about the victim’s spat with the law in 2008 over drug-related charges -from which has was completely acquitted in court- is more egregious, as the information is irrelevant to the current events.
Meanwhile, Katsifas’s family have refused to collect the body from the Albanian authorities, demanding for an independent autopsy with the participation of a Greek forensic coroner, a request which was turned down by the Tirana Prosecutors’ Offices.