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news 01 Feb 18

Kosovo Court Jails Kelmendi For Drugs Running

The Basic Court in Pristina on Thursday found Naser Kelmendi guilty of running a narcotics operation – but acquitted him of murder and other charges – jailing him for six years.

Die Morina, Labinot Leposhtica
Naser Kelmendi in Pristina Basic Court when judge read the verdict in Thursday | Photo: BIRN

A court in Kosovo on Thursday found Naser Kelmendi guilty of the "unauthorised possession with intent to distribute, sell and/or export/import dangerous narcotic drugs" and jailed him for six years.

The Basic Court in Pristina found Kelmendi not guilty of the murder of Ramiz Delacic, however, or of organised crime and other charges related to narcotics.

The court also decided that the time he spent in custody, from May 2013 to June 2017, will be deducted from Kelmendi's sentence.

Kelmendi's trial began in January 2015, when he was charged with aggravated murder, two counts of organised crime and six counts of the sale and production of drugs in various capacities, which include managing and overseeing a narcotics ring.

During the trial, witnesses spoke of Kelmendi’s alleged connections to other criminals, tycoons and politicians across the region, including the Bosnian media mogul and politician Fahrudin Radoncic, who denied involvement in the case.

The highest-profile charge concerned the 2007 murder of Ramiz Delalic, a Bosnian former warlord.

“Delalic had given law-enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina extensive information about the drug-trafficking operations of Naser Kelmendi.

"Delalic was also trying to establish his own trafficking operations in Bosnia, which was perceived by Kelmendi as a threat to his criminal organisation,” Andrew Hughes, the EULEX prosecutor when the trial began in 2015, said.

On Wednesday, however, as the trial moved to a close, Kelmendi said that "the entire process has been fabricated".

In relation to the accusation of murdering Delalic, Kelmendi said he had been "a victim of mounting from Bosnia – with the help of the prosecution".

During the trial, a protected witness codenamed K1 – a member of Kelmendi’s alleged crime ring – said Kelmendi had operated a Balkan drugs ring for years.

Testifying against his alleged former boss, he stated that the group smuggled heroin from Turkey through Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia, from where it was sold on to various European countries.

Kelmendi also denied ever dealing with drugs, however.

"Regarding the drugs charge, I also swear that I never dealt with drugs in my life and I will not," he told the court.

A Kosovo Albanian with Bosnian citizenship, he was arrested on May 2013 based on an international warrant arrest issued from Bosnia.

Since Bosnia and Kosovo have no diplomatic relations or extradition agreements, Kelmendi has been tried in Kosovo only. However, he faces charges in Bosnia as well.

In Bosnia, Kelmendi is accused of organised crime, attempted murder and the sale and distribution of narcotics in Latin America, Turkey, Serbia, Croatia and other Western European countries.

The Pristina Basic Court released him from prison on February 2017, but only a few days afterwards another ruling put him in jail again.  

At the request of the defence the court put him under house arrest in March 2017 – but he was put back in custody again in April.

He was released in June, however, and has since then been at liberty.

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