news 20 Sep 17

Pristina Albanians Quizzed over Serb Minister ‘Torture’ Claims

The Special Prosecution asked police to interview people in Pristina who made allegations that Kosovo’s new Serb agriculture minister Nenad Rikalo tortured Albanians during the war - a claim he denies.

Die Morina
Nenad Rikalo, Kosovo's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development.

The head of the Kosovo Special Prosecution, Reshat Millaku, told BIRN on Wednesday that police have interviewed several people who alleged that Nenad Rikalo, Kosovo’s new agriculture minister, was allegedly involved in the torture of Albanians during the 1990s war.

“We have authorised [Kosovo Police] to interview the residents. Interviews took place at the Special Prosecution's request,” Millaku said, without giving further details.

Rikalo has denied the claims, which have also been dismissed by Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

Several Pristina residents, who claim to have lived in same building as Rikalo during the 1990s, told broadcaster KTV last Wednesday that they witnessed Rikalo torturing Kosovo Albanians during the war period, and that they always saw him in uniform.

Festim Beqiri, one of the residents of the building, stated that he witnessed Rikalo torturing someone twice and that the new minister pointed a weapon at Beqiri’s late father.

Their statements caused Kosovo Albanian officials to urge the prosecution to launch an investigation, and for premier Haradinaj to dismiss Rikalo until the situation is clarified.

Armend Zemaj, an MP from the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, claimed that some people told him that “the minister tortured students from [the town of] Decan”.

He also published a picture which he claimed showed Rikalo’s brother wearing Serb army uniform.

Rikalo said that Zemaj’s move was part of a campaign against him and his family.

“Mr. Zemaj lied to the public when he showed the alleged photograph of my brother… It is part of an intentional manipulation of the public,” Rikalo said in a statement last Thursday.

Haradinaj also defended his minister, stating he had requested information from the State Prosecution, the Kosovo Intelligence Agency and Kosovo Police about the torture allegations.

“From the answers I have received, officially, from these three state institutions, there is no evidence that he has been involved in such actions,” Haradinaj said in a statement.

Rikalo was appointed as minister on Saturday.

He is one of three Kosovo Serb ministers in the new government who joined the cabinet after the Belgrade-backed Srpska Lista, the main Serb party in Kosovo, decided to join Haradinaj’s administration.

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