TIRANA, May 24 -- Three top officials in the Stalinist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha were sentenced to death Friday for 'crimes against humanity' for their role in sending thousands of people into internal exile. Former Supreme Court Justice Aranit Cela, 70, former Deputy Interior Minister Zylyftar Ramizi, 57, the chief of the secret police, and former Attorney General Rrapi Mino, 53, were sentenced to die for their involvement in rounding up, prosecuting and sending people into internal exile. In pronouncing the death sentence, Tirana District Court Judge Luan Daci said the three 'have broken the law by sending many people to internal exile for political reasons.' Daci also handed down life sentences against two other high officials in Hoxha's regime, Haxhi Lleshi, 80, who was Albania's president from 1953 to 1982, and Manush Myftiy, 84, who served as deputy prime minister for 30 years. Lleshi was an Albanian partisan commander during World War II, and Myftiy was the chief of a special commission that interned people for political reasons. The court action Friday was the second against Myftiy, Cela, Ramizi and Mino. Two years ago they were prosecuted for abusing their offices. Most were sentenced to jail. The judge's death penalty was harsher than what had been sought by prosecutor Arjan Sulstafa, who asked for life sentences for four of the officials and 25 years for Mino. The lawyers for the convicted men said the verdict was politically motivated, coming just two days before the Albanian general elections.
The convicted men all have the right to appeal within 15 days to the country's Appeals Court and after that to the Supreme Court. During the past five years, the death penalty has only been used against criminals convicted of murder. This is the first group of former communist officials to be sentenced based on the so-called genocide law approved by the Albanian parliament last September. More then 50 people, including the last communist leader, Ramiz Alia, are expecting to be sentenced under this law.