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news 02 Feb 18

Kelmendi Witnesses Faced Death Threats, Prosecutor Says

The EULEX prosecutor in the trial in Kosovo of Naser Kelmendi – who was found guilty of running a drugs operation but not of murder – says witnesses brave enough to testify received death threats.

Die Morina
Prosecutor Andrew Hughes during the interview with Justice in Kosovo on Friday | Photo: BIRN

After the Basic Court in Pristina jailed Naser Kelmendi for six years, after finding him guilty of running a narcotics operation, Andrew Hughes, prosecutor for the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, said some witnesses had been threatened to pressurize them to change their testimonies.

“It is important to know that before the trial and throughout the trial many of our witnesses were threatened with death and we also had evidence that some of them were bribed or that they were offered bribes,” Hughes told BIRN Kosovo's TV show Justice in Kosovo on Friday.

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 included managing and overseeing a narcotics ring.

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

However, the court in Kosovo on Thursday found him guilty only of the "unauthorised possession with intent to distribute, sell and/or export/import dangerous narcotic drugs" and acquitted him of murder charges.

“I was disappointed that he was not convicted of the organised crime and aggravated murder charges against ... Ramiz Delalic who was considered a great war commander and hero in Bosnia during the Bosnian war,” the prosecutor said.

Hughes said the key witnesses for the murder charge “were not perfect but they told similar stories”, adding that they had been “very courageous” by testifying and had nothing to gain from it.

“One of them was even shot on two different occasions and almost died, but he still had the courage to come, and he was a close friend of the victim, and explained all the evidence related to this murder and what led up to the murder,” he said.

Hughes described Kelmendi as “a high-ranking person in this organised criminal group, who found the assassins who carried out a very well executed and brutal assassination of this victim”.

Commenting on the court’s jail sentence of six years, Hughes said that it seemed very low.

“My perception is that in Kosovo and Europe the sentence is very low; in the US, you would be sentenced with many many years if you were convicted of transporting a large amount of drugs”.

Kelmendi, a Kosovo Albanian with Bosnian citizenship, 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.

NOTE: This article has been amended on February 10 to reflect on a letter received from the office of one of the witnesses, Fahrudin Radoncic, Bosnian media mogul and a politician.

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