Albania court convicts fugitive ex-spy chief

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An Albanian court convicted the country's fugitive former intelligence chief Thursday of murder for the 1995 death of a suspect who was illegally detained for an alleged plot to murder Macedonia's president.

The court, which tried Ilir Kumbaro in absentia, also sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The victim, businessman Remzi Hoxha, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia, was abducted by the secret police 17 years ago along with two other suspects for allegedly planning to kill then-Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov during a visit to Albania. The court said the three suspects were held illegally and tortured during questioning.

Kumbaro traveled to Britain in 1996 under a false identity, claiming to be a refugee from Kosovo. He has been missing for a year, after skipping an extradition hearing in London. Hoxha was never found and is presumed to have died in custody.

During the trial, the court heard that Hoxha, and fellow suspects Avdyl Loshaj and Ziso Kristopulli, were taken to a secret police facility in the Lezhe district 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. They were never formally charged of the alleged plot against Gligorov in neighboring Macedonia, and Loshaj and Kristopulli were released after being held for a week.

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