News 20 May 14

Kosovo Ex-Guerrillas Escape From Detention

Three former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas accused of war crimes during the 1990s conflict have gone on the run after escaping from a clinic in Pristina where they were being treated.

Arben Sylejmani
Sami Lushtaku and his lawyer.

Former fighters Sami Lushtaku, Ismet Haxha and Sahit Jashari absconded from the University Clinic Centre in Pristina on Tuesday after refusing to be transferred to a prison in the northern city of Mitrovica.

“The defendants are on the run,” confirmed Shemsi Hajrizi, the head of Kosovo’s prison service.

Lushtaku, the mayor of Skenderaj/Srbice, and the two other men, all KLA fighters from the wartime guerrilla cell known as the Drenica Group, are charged with torturing and mistreating prisoners at a KLA detention centre in Likovc/Likovac in 1998.

They had been in detention on remand since May last year and were initially held in the Dubrava Prison in the Peja/Pec region before being transferred to the Pristina clinic for treatment several weeks ago.

On Monday, a judge from the EU rule-of-law mission decided to transfer them to a jail in Mitrovica.

But Hajrizi warned that it could be dangerous to move them to the Mitrovica prison because two high-profile Serbs are being held there.

“We want guarantees for their lives,” Hajrizi said.

Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic and retired police colonel Dragoljub Delibasic are in custody in the Mitrovica jail over allegations of involvement in alleged war crimes during the fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and Belgrade’s forces in 1999, as well as killings that took place after the Kosovo conflict ended.

Tahir Rrecaj, the defence lawyer for Jashari, said he had not been informed that his client is on the run.

The Kosovo police declined to comment.

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