News 29 Apr 13

Kosovo Convicts Five Over Human Organ Trafficking

A Kosovo court has convicted five men of participating in an illegal organ-trading ring that harvested and sold human kidneys at the Medicus clinic near Pristina.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina

The court in Pristina on Monday found the former owner of the Medicus clinic, Lutfi Dervishi, guilty of organised crime and people-trafficking, sentenced him to eight years in prison and imposed a fine of 10,000 euro.

His son Arban Dervishi was found guilty of the same charges and sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, and fined 2,500 euro.

Both of them were ordered to pay compensation of 15,000 euro to each of around seven victims of the organ-trafficking ring, which lured poor donors to the Kosovo clinic with false promises of lucrative payments, then removed their kidneys and sold them to rich patients.

The clinic’s head anaesthetist Sokol Hajdini was found guilty of grievous bodily harm and sentenced to three years in prison.

Assistant anaesthetists Islam Bytyqi and Sylejman Dula were found guilty of grievous bodily harm and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, suspended for two years.

However a senior official at the Kosovo health ministry, Ilir Rrecaj, was acquitted of abusing his official position, while doctor Driton Jilta’s charge of illegal medical activity was thrown out by the court due to lack of evidence.

The verdict came after the court heard sometimes gruesome testimony from around 80 witnesses.

The indictment says around 30 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.

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

Two foreign suspects in the case - Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez and Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen - are still listed as wanted by Interpol but remain at large.

According to the indictment, Sonmez was a transplant surgeon “involved in the international trade in human organs, the procurement and purchase and sale of body parts and the recruitment of persons for the removal and harvest of organs”.

Harel was “the key recruiter and fixer” for the trafficking ring, the indictment said.

The indictment alleged that preparations for the organ-trafficking operation began in 2006 when Dervishi made direct contact with Sonmez and soon after “began to plan and deliberate, in concert together, to perform organ transplants in Kosovo”.

The Medicus 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.

Dick Marty, the Council of Europe human rights rapporteur who compiled the report, was invited to testify before the court in Pristina, but the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declined to discuss the lifting of his immunity, thereby preventing him from appearing.

The EU rule of law mission’s special prosecutor in the case, Jonathan Ratel, said he was “substantially satisfied” although not all of the defendants were convicted.

“We are looking at appeals on a technical basis for some of the suspects, but the key to the judgment was a finding against the majority of the suspects engaged in serious criminal offences including organised crime, trafficking in people and causing grievous bodily harm to the victims,” Ratel told a press conference.

Investigators closed down the Medicus clinic in 2008, and it has since been sold to new owners.

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Background

Kosovo's Organ-Harvesting Controversy

Here is a sequence of events leading up to the organ-trafficking charges in Kosovo and the release of the Council of Europe report.

Fatmir Limaj, Kosovo's Road-Builder

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KLA : From Guerilla Wars to Party Plenums

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KLA Ran Torture Camps in Albania

The Kosovo Liberation Army maintained a network of prisons in their bases in Albania and Kosovo during and after the conflict of 1999, eyewitnesses allege. Only now are the details of what occurred there emerging.

The Drenica Group

Crime gang allegedly headed by Prime Minister Thaci is said to have run a range of mafia-like enterprises, from cigarette smuggling to trafficking in organs.

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