Following the condemnation by the Kosovar government of Fatmir Limaj’s detention, EU says that political interference in judicial processes in unacceptable.
According to Michael Mann, Chief Spokesperson for EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, current political interference in the judicial processes in Kosovo is unacceptable.
“EULEX [EU Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo] was invited by the Kosovo authorities to help Kosovo and we expect the Kosovo authorities to support EULEX in this work,” Mann said on Tuesday.
“EULEX and its entire staff, in particular the judges and prosecutors, have the full support of the twenty seven member states of the EU, " he added.
Supreme Court Confirms Detention
A mixed panel of two EULEX judges and one local judge, presided over by a EULEX judge at Kosovo’s Supreme Court, has upheld the decision to order one month’s detention on remand for Limaj and his other three co-defendants, EULEX said in a press release issued on Wednesday.
“The Supreme Court panel considered there was grounded suspicion that the accused committed the crimes they were charged with based on the confirmed indictment. The panel also considered that there was an increased and specific risk of intimidation and influence on the corroborating identified witnesses”, the press release read.
The statement comes after Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, described the Saturday’s detention of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, commander, Fatmir Limaj, as a sly act by EULEX.
“This is unfair! This is unacceptable! This is shameful! This is not justice, this is indignity,” Thaci said.
Limaj, who is now deputy president of Thaci’s ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, and three other ex KLA fighters, Naser Krasniqi, Nexhmi Krasniqi and Naser Shala, were detained after the so called Klecka case was sent to the retrial on November 20.
Responding to Thaci’s accusations EULEX issued a statement saying that “there was nothing secret about these actions.”
“The prosecutor’s intention to ask for detention against the four defendants in the Klecka case was not a secret. This intention was made public on Tuesday during the Supreme Court session. This was a hearing open to the public,” reads the statement.
Limaj’s former soldiers from the KLA’s 121st Brigade “Kumanova” disrupted the inauguration of a section of the highway intended to link their country with Albania demanding the release of their comrades. The inauguration was timed to coincide with the celebrations of 100 years of Albanian independence.
"Today Kosovo will not celebrate until our comrades are released," gathered veterans were shouting.
A helicopter carrying Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha to the ceremony was turned back while his counterpart Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci failed to turn up as it was initially planned.
The four men were acquitted on May 2 of all charges of torturing and killing Serb and Albanian civilians and Serb prisoners of war at a prison in the southern Kosovo village of Klecka in 1999.
Almost all of the charges were based on the testimony of Agim Zogaj, known as Witness X, who killed himself last September in Germany, before the first trial started.
Zogaj was a prison guard at the Klecka prison and his diary about events there was crucial to the prosecution’s case but on March 21, the court found that his testimony and diaries were inadmissible.
However, last week the EULEX judge, Gerrit-Marc Sprenger, overruled that decision, making Zogaj’s testimonies admissible, which was one of the reasons for the detention of the four ex KLA members.
“At the time when this evidence was inadmissible, there was no fear of the defendants tampering with evidence. Now that Agim Zogaj’s evidence is admissible, the court considered that tampering with evidence that could corroborate the statements of Agim Zogaj was a possibility. The admissibility of Agim Zogaj’s evidence also increases the risk of flight according to the reasoning given by the presiding judge,” it was said in EULEX statement.
Unlike Kosovo, Serbia greeted the arrest, where Limaj and other KLA members are charged with organ trafficking in Kosovo and Albania during 1999.
“We ask for all the perpetrators of war crimes to be brought to justice and we remind that families of more than thousands of non-Albanians killed in 1999 are still waiting for justice,” said the Serbian Office for Kosovo and Metohija.
Limaj also faced war crime charges at the Hague Tribunal, ICTY.
He was charged, along with Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala, with war crimes against Serbs and Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbia during the Kosovo war.
In November 2005, the ICTY acquitted him and he returned home to a hero’s welcome.
On November 16 this year, EULEX has indicted Limaj for organized crime and corruption during his time as the Minister of Transport, between 2008 and 2010.