A Kosovo court has postponed the hearings in the Medicus case trial until October, after courts in Israel and Turkey failed to respond to requests for help with interviewing two key witnesses.
Pristina’s District Court had asked the courts in Turkey and Israel to facilitate video link testimonies by Dr. Yusuf Somnez, who is Turkish, and the Moshe Harel, an Israeli. The testimonies were scheduled for this week, but the Pristina court has yet to receive any response to its requests.
Both Harel and Somnez were arrested by the Israeli and Turkish authorities respectively, and then released on bail. As neither Turkey nor Israel extradites their nationals the only way their testimony can be heard is through cooperation with the courts.
The Medicus case focuses on allegations that a group of people brought poor donors and rich recipients to a clinic in Kosovo, and then organised and carried out illegal organ transplants.
The Medicus clinic allegedly lured poor people from Istanbul, Moscow, Moldova and Kazakhstan, falsely promising to pay them up to €15,000 for their organs. Some received no payment at all.
The indictment says that 30 operations involving illegal kidney transplants took place at the clinic in 2008.
The EU rule of law mission, EULEX, in 2010 indicted seven Kosovo Albanians and two foreigners, including Sonmez and Harel, with human trafficking, organised crime and unlawful medical activities.
The Medicus clinic, just outside of Pristina, is also linked to a December 2010 Council of Europe report which alleged that elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army traded the organs of prisoners during the 1999 conflict.
In a recent interview for BIRN, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the director of Organs Watch, an organization dedicated to research on the global traffic in human organs, said that the clinic in Kosovo was just part of a wider international racket dealing in transplanted organs.
She told BIRN that two former clients of the Medicus clinic near Pristina had identified Yusuf Sonmez as the key figure in what she describes as a major organization based in Israel and Turkey, with many additional outlets across the world.
The prosecution says that Moshe Harel, an Israeli of Turkish origin, acted as one of the cartel’s fixers, finding both donors and recipients and handling funds.
On Tuesday, the Pristina court heard the testimony of Jeton Dragusha from the Kosovo’s Tax Administration, who explained how the income and expenditures of the clinic were managed.
According to Dragusha, the Medicus Clinic accounts showed that it “paid more in tax, compared to the income the clinic actually received from its business.”
Here is a sequence of events leading up to the organ-trafficking charges in Kosovo and the release of the Council of Europe report.
Corruption allegations have not dented the popularity of the KLA- fighter-turned-PDK politician who has made it his mission to transform the country’s traffic arteries.
The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that came to the fore in the mid-1990s, demanding the unification of Albanian territories in former Yugoslavia with 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.
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.