news 12 Jan 18

Claims About Kosovo's Post-War Murders Shock Families

Families of Kosovo post war victims expressed shock over the statements of a prosecution witness who claimed on TV that a group founded by Ibrahim and Qerim Kelmendi had carrried out political assasinations after the war ended.

Die Morina
Justice Palaca in Pristina, Kosovo | Photo: BIRN

Members of the Kosovo Albanian Zemaj, Tolaj and Haklaj families – whose relatives were all killed over the last decade in unknown circumstances – have expressed shocked over statements that Shkumbin Mehmeti, a convicted killer, made in a TV interview in which he claimed to have been part of an organised criminal group that carried some of the killings.

Among other cases, he mentioned the killing in 2003 of Tahir Zemaj, commander of the paramilitary wing of the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, which was allegedly in conflict with the Kosovo Liberaration Army, KLA.

Mehmeti was arrested in 2004 and later sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing two police officers - one from the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, and another policeman from Kosovo in 2004.

During an interview in high security prison aired on Thursday by Pristina based Klan Kosova TV that was allowed by the prosecutor of his case, Mehmeti said that Ibrahim Kelmendi - one of the founders of the People’s Movement in Kosovo, LPK a left-wing nationalist party founded in the 1980s- and his brother Qerim Kelmendi ordered political killings.

The LPK was a key precursor to the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and played a crucial role in its creation; it argued that Kosovo's freedom could be won only through armed struggle.

“The group was founded at the end of 2001 by Qerim and Ibrahim Kelmendi, the former founder of the LPK,” Mehmeti told TV.

“The target of this group were members of the LDK,” Mehmeti added, mentioning some specific names, which the TV show host decided not to reveal.

He said the targets were “especially those who were witnesses against...", with the “beep” sound drowning out the name he had mentioned.

Mehmeti claimed that some important politicians were aware of the group's actions, but the TV had decided also not to mention their names, before asking these persons to comment.

Doruntine Maloku, the daughter of LDK activist Enver Maloku, who was shot in 1999 by an unidentified gunman, was the first to react on social media.

“Hiding crime evidence, hiding witnesses’ statements, cowardly investigators and prosecutors captured by politics. Politicians involved in the assassination of political activists. ... and what else! Welcome Special Court!" Maloku wrote.

Mehmeti also said the Kelmendi brothers ordered the killing of LDK MP Smajl Hajdari, who was shot dead in 2002.

“The tendentious beeps of Batonit [Baton Haxhiu, author of the TV show] will be shed in light of the Special Court. The 'war' against it is useless,” Shpetim Hajdaraj, his son, wrote on Facebook.

Mehmeti also said the Kelmendi’s brothers tasked Florim Ejupi to kill the Kosovo Democratic Party, PDK, MP Xhavit Haliti – but the plan failed.

Qerim Kelmendi himself said the claims surprised him. “Today I know this guy for the first time, and I was surprised,” he wrote on Facebook, adding that he suspected the interviewee had been trained in his reponses by Serbian intelligence forces.

“Don’t trust this psychopath – who in the details has been trained by Serbia’s spies,” he wrote. He called the TV confession “a telenovela prepared in details by the UDBa [the infamous security service of former Yugoslavia]”.

Pristina based Kosovo's State Prosecution has not reacted as yet to the statements made by Mehmeti.

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