news 25 Oct 17

Nurse Retracts Testimony in Kosovo Organ-Trafficking Trial

At the retrial of three Kosovo men accused of trafficking in human organs, a nurse who worked at the Medicus clinic near Pristina denied a statement she signed ten years ago about the removal of patients’ kidneys.

Die Morina, Blerta Iberdemaj
Defendants Lutfi Dervishi and Sokol Hajdini at Pristina Basic Court. Photo: BIRN.

Mendehie Hajdari, who used to work as a nurse at the Medicus clinic until the day investigators closed it down in 2008 over the allegations of organ trafficking, appeared at Pristina Basic Court on Wednesday but retracted her previous statement to police.

The former owner of the Medicus clinic, Lutfi Dervishi, his son Arban Dervishi and head anesthetist Sokol Hajdini are being retried for alleged involvement in organised crime in connection with people-trafficking after a Kosovo Supreme Court ruling overturned their original convictions.

Hajdari gave testimony to police in 2008, but on Wednesday in court, she denied everything in the statement.

Prosecutor Valeria Bolici asked if she remembered what surgery they did apart from cardiac surgery on the first floor, where Dervishi and Hajdini worked, but Hajdari said that could not remember.

The prosecutor then asked: “Do you know if a kidney transplant ever happened in the first floor?”

The witness said that all she knows is that at the moment the doctors were arrested, the staff were interviewed by investigators and she only then realised there was something going on.

The prosecutor asked again about the statement she gave in 2008 in which she said she was involved in kidney transplants.

“Was your memory fresher back then or now after ten years?” the prosecutor asked.

But the witness insisted that she never made such a statement.

The witness was also asked about the fact that in 2008 she stated that the donors and patients were from different countries, but again she insisted that she had never said something like that.

Hajdari admitted that the signature on the statement was hers, but said that she did not remember signing it.

The appeals court initially upheld the defendants’ convictions in March 2016, jailing Lutfi Dervishi and his son for eight years and Hajdini for five.

The ruling said that “multiple illegal kidney transplants” took place at the clinic in 2008.

Poor people from Turkey, Russia, Moldova and Kazakhstan were allegedly brought to the clinic after being assured that they would receive up to 15,000 euro for their kidneys.

The EU rule-of-law mission prosecutor in the case said that transplant recipients, mainly Israelis, paid more than 70,000 euro for the kidneys.

But after the appeals court ruling, Kosovo’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial on the basis of procedural irregularities.

Police initially raided the Medicus clinic in 2008 after a Turkish man whose kidney had been removed was found seriously ill at Pristina airport.

The clinic was also mentioned in a Council of Europe report which alleged that elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army traded the organs of prisoners during the 1999 conflict.

Investigators closed down the clinic in 2008, and it has since been sold.

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