News 05 Jan 17

Kosovo Organ-Trafficking Retrial Disappoints EU Mission

The EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo expressed disappointment after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of three men convicted of involvement in organ-trafficking from the Medicus clinic near Pristina.

Die Morina
The former Medicus clinic.

The EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, told BIRN that it regretted the fact that the high-profile Medicus case will be retried after a Supreme Court ruling last month overturned the verdict convicting three Kosovo men of involvement in an organ-trafficking ring that operated from the clinic near Pristina in 2008.

Medicus clinic owner Lutfi Dervishi, his son Arban Dervishi and head anaesthetist Sokol Hajdini were found guilty of organised crime in connection with people-trafficking.

The appeals court upheld the convictions in March 2016, jailing Lutfi Dervishi and his son for eight years and Hajdini for five, but the Supreme Court ordered a retrial last month on the basis of procedural irregularities - a ruling which the EULEX judge on the court panel opposed.

“While EULEX accepts the judgment of the Supreme Court of Kosovo, the mission expresses its disappointment with the outcome of the Medicus case, where a local-majority panel annulled all previous judgments in the parts where the defendants have been convicted and returned the case to the Basic Court of Pristina for a retrial,” EULEX spokeswoman Besa Domi told BIRN.

Petrit Dushi, the lawyer for Arban Dervishi, told BIRN that the two most serious charges in the case, organised crime and people-trafficking, will be reheard at the new trial.

“The Supreme Court sent back the major part of the case for retrial; only the [allegations of] illegal medical activities are left out [of the retrial],” Dushi told BIRN.

The appeals ruling said found that “multiple 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 EULEX prosecutor in the case said that transplant recipients, mainly Israelis, paid more than 70,000 euro for the kidneys.

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

In March last year, the appeals court overturned the convictions of the clinic’s assistant anaesthetists Islam Bytyqi and Sylejman Dula, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove they were involved in organ-trafficking.

But two foreign suspects in the case - Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez and Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen - remain at large.

Harel was also charged in Israel in 2015 with international organ trafficking and organising illegal transplants, alongside six others.

“The accused ran a real business in trafficking organs, on dozens of occasions over the course of years, exploiting the financial distress of the donors and the health crisis of the recipients for economic gain,” the Israeli justice ministry said at the time.

Both Sonmez and Harel are listed as wanted by Interpol

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.

Investigators closed down the clinic in 2008, and it has since been sold. 

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