News 01 Feb 13

Kosovo Ex-Minister Says Graft Charges are Fiction

The lawyer for ex-fighter turned politician Fatmir Limaj mocked allegations that he illegally spent a million euro on his war crimes trial defence.

Edona Peci

“The whole indictment looks like a badly-written novel to me,” Tome Gashi, one of the lawyers for former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Limaj, told BIRN.

His comments came after a Pristina newspaper published what it said were details of the indictment against Limaj for alleged involvement in organised crime and corruption while he was Kosovo’s transport minister between 2008 and 2010.

Limaj is accused of using money raised through organised crime to fund his defence at his trial last year for war crimes committed at a detention centre in the village of Klecka during the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s.

Limaj is alleged to have illegally spent a million euro on his defence, newspaper Koha Ditore reported.

In a separate trial at the Hague Tribunal in 2005, Limaj was acquitted of war crimes against Serbs and Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbia during the Kosovo war and he returned home to a hero’s welcome.

He then became transport minister, but was again put on trial for war crimes, this time in Pristina.

He was acquitted again in May last year but the prosecution successfully appealed against the verdict and the case has since been sent for a retrial.

The corruption charges raised by the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo form a separate case against Limaj and relate to his time as transport minister, accusing him of leading a “criminal group” after his return from The Hague.

His lawyer Gashi said however that the money for his defence was acquired legally when he sold some land.

“The prosecutor is contradicting himself, because he raises suspicion about the source of the payments made to Limaj’s defence and then he says a piece of Limaj’s land was sold for 500,000 euro, which in fact explains where the money came from,” Gashi said.

Limaj is currently the vice-president of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo. His corruption trial is expected to resume on February 7.

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