News 28 Aug 17

Kosovo Arrests Serb on War Crimes Charges

A Serb was detained in a village near the Kosovo town of Suhareka/Suva Reka on war crimes charges, sparking allegations of persecution from officials in Belgrade.

Perparim Isufi, Petrit Kryeziu
Kosovo's state prosecution office. Photo: BIRN.

Kosovo Special Prosecutor Elez Blakaj told BIRN that the suspect was arrested on Monday in the village of Sopi/Sopina near the town of Suhareka/Suva Reka.

“All I can say is that at this stage the case is under [the control of] the Special Prosecution. It is about suspicions of war crimes and will be treated like any other case,” Blakaj said.

Police have not confirmed the arrest yet.

Serbian public broadcaster RTS has named the arrested man as Bogdan Mitrovic, aged 74, although this has not been confirmed by Kosovo officials.

RTS reported that he was among a group of about 50 Serbs visiting homes they abandoned in the village after the war and a Serbian Orthodox church in nearby Mushtisht/Musutiste.

The head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, condemned the arrest as “disgraceful and inhuman”, describing it as the continuation of what he called the “ethnic cleansing” of Serbs from Kosovo.

Djuric also warned that “there can be no normalisation of relations [with Kosovo] if the other side doesn't want it”, according to the B92 website - a reference to ongoing EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina.

On August 11, a court in the Kosovo town of Prizren remanded a man called Agim Sahitaj in custody for a month over claims that he committed war crimes against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population.

Sahitaj was arrested in the same village as Monday’s suspect but it is not yet confirmed whether or not there is any link between the cases.

Kosovo’s Special Prosecution alleged that Sahitaj acted with Serbian forces in April 1999 as they killed, wounded, beat and harassed Kosovo Albanian civilians, looted their possessions and forcibly expelled them from their homes.

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