Sunday, March 27, 2005

Intimidation fears over alleged crimes


FOUR Albanian families whose relatives were alleged victims of war crimes with which Kosovo’s former prime minister has been charged, have denied that he was involved in their killings.

International officials in the former Yugoslav province fear they may have been subjected to intimidation and that it may hinder the possibility of convicting former premier Ramush Haradinaj.

Haradinaj, 36, has been charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or ICTY, with 37 charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the rules and customs of war.

Each charge potentially carries a life sentence, and Haradinaj is in detention in the Hague, having given himself up voluntarily on 8 March.

Four key counts of murder and unlawful detention in his indictment are among those which refer to alleged killings of Kosovo Albanians in 1998, when Haradinaj was a senior commander in the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army fighting against Serb forces.

In four of the counts in the ICTY indictment - a public document - Haradinaj is charged, along with two co-defendants, of killing ethnic Albanians Safet Kuqi, Isuf Hoxha and Hajrrlluah Gashi, and kidnapping Fadil Fazliu.

Reports have surfaced this month in the Pristina media, including the pro-KLA Epoka e Re newspaper, in which relatives of the victims give wildly differing accounts of what happened to the dead men.

The ICTY indictment says that Haradinaj killed Isuf Hoxha and Hajrlluah Gashi after kidnapping them. Their families claim Serbian forces killed the men and that they are now ready to testify at the ICTY in defence of Kosovo’s former prime minister.

The family of Safet Kuqi now denies their father was killed by anybody connected to the KLA.

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