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news 24 Nov 17

Kosovo Court Acquits Limaj of All Charges

A Kosovo court on Friday acquitted Deputy Prime Minister Fatmir Limaj on each count of the corruption indictment against him and his group.

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Fatmir Limaj in Basic Court of Pristina on Friday | Photo: Atdhe Mulla

The Basic Court of Pristina on Friday acquitted Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Fatmir Limaj, Endrit Shala, Shpetim Telaki, Nexhat Krasniqi and Florim Zuka of organised crime, abuse of official position and authority and accepting bribes.

Limaj, who was Minister of Transport, Post and Telecomunications at the time, was accused, among other things, of manipulating tender procedures, giving and receiving bribes and obstructing evidence in relation to three tenders put out by the ministry between 2008 and 2010.

The judges' panel, headed by a judge from the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, Judge Maria Tuma, said that “the accused have been acquitted because it has not been proven that they have committed the acts for which they have been charged.”

Two indictments were raised against Limaj and the others in 2012 and 2014, which later were consolidated in 2015.

Limaj, the former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was a former minister in the government led by Kosovo's current President, Hashim Thaci, and was one of his closest allies.

But relations between Limaj and Thaci, former head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, started to crumble in November 2012, when EULEX raised an indictment over alleged organised crime and corruption against Limaj.

Together with a former KLA secretary, Jakup Krasniqi, in 2014 Limaj established a new political party to challenge the rule of the PDK.

But Limaj’s party, the Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA, joined a coalition with the PDK, and with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, ahead of the general elections on June 11.

As a result of the agreement, he holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister in Haradinaj's government.

Limaj was earlier acquitted from war crimes charges in May, when a court cleared him of abusing Albanian and Serb prisoners.

In a previous trial before the Hague war crimes tribunal, the ICTY, in 2005, Limaj was also acquitted of war crimes against Serbs and Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbia during the war and returned home to a hero’s welcome.

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