Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Envoy urges Serbia to tackle case of US citizens killed in 1999

Text of report in English by Belgrade-based Radio B92 text website on 11 July

Belgrade, 10 July: US Ambassador to Serbia [Michael Polt] has once again urged the authorities to complete the investigation into the Bytyqi brothers [US citizens who whose corpses were found in a mass grave in Serbia] case.

Ambassador Michael Polt brought up the case of American citizens executed in Serbia seven years ago and asked the authorities to issue indictments against the perpetrators, the US embassy communicated.

The bodies of brothers Ylli, Agron and Mehmet were discovered in 2001, in a mass grave in Petrovo Selo near Kladovo [in eastern Serbia]. Their hands were tied and they had gunshot wounds to the head.

US embassy press release stresses that "although there is currently a Serbian investigation under way and three persons suspected of involvement in the case have been taken into custody this year, to date there have been no indictments issued since the killings seven years ago". The ambassador urged the Serbian authorities to "solve this case rapidly, no matter where the evidence may lead, prosecute the perpetrators of this criminal act, and bring justice and closure to the Bytyqi family."

The three brothers were born in the US and resided in New York prior to going to Kosovo during the conflict in 1999. On 26 June 1999, after NATO's campaign had ended, they were arrested by Serbian officials at the administrative border with Serbia for violating the Law on Movement and Stay of Aliens. On 27 June, the brothers were sentenced in Prokuplje to 15 days in prison. On 8 July, four days before the expiration of their sentence, they were taken by Serbian officials to the Petrovo Selo facility, illegally detained, and subsequently executed, the embassy release reads. War crimes prosecutor's office in Belgrade asked on 1 March this year for an investigation of the two suspects to proceed, on charges of war crimes against prisoners in 1999. In the interest of the investigation, the names of suspects have been withheld. In mid May, Ministry of the Interior (MUP) detained Aleksandar Nikolic, a member of the MUP's Gendarmerie unit from Novi Sad, on suspicion of having taken part in and aided the transfer of the Bytyqi brothers' bodies from Prokuplje to Petrovo Selo. At that time, a complete investigation it the case was announced, as well as interviews with 17 witnesses. The persons in question were trained in the special and search-and-operations police units, commanded by Goran Radosavljevic-Guri.

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