News 26 Mar 12

Salustro: Klecka Case Defendants Are Guilty

EULEX prosecutor Maurizio Salustro has asked a Kosovo court to declare Limaj and nine other ex KLA fighters in the Klecka case guilty and to impose the maximum sentence.

Fatmir Aliu
Pristina

Maurizio Salustro, the Special Prosecutor in the Klecka case, in his final statement submitted to the panel of judges of Pristina’s District Court, wrote that even though the testimonies and diaries of the deceased witness Agim Zogaj were ruled as inadmissible, the prosecution has proven that the defendants are guilty of war crimes on all counts.

Salustro’s final statement, seen by BIRN, was sent last Thursday, March 22, a day after the court released ten former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, fighters, including their then commander Fatmir Limaj, now Deputy President of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK. 

The court ruled that the prosecution had failed to meet certain procedural standards, and therefore Zogaj’s evidence was not admissible.

The indictment against Limaj and the other defendants had charged them with committing various war crimes at an improvised detention center in the village of Klecka, in the Drenica region of Kosovo.

Zogaj was a prison guard at the Klecka camp in Kosovo in 1999 and his diaries about events there were key to the prosecution’s case.

Salustro, in his final statement, argues that because of Zogaj’s testimonies five bodies were recovered in the village of Klecka.

“On March 24, 2009, Mr Zogaj told the investigators about a possible grave. On September 2009 an exhumation was undertaken and five mortal remains were found,” Salustro wrote to the court.

The defence lawyers have claimed that the exhumation and evidence gathered there was inadmissible too, since lawyers were not present.

However, Salustro argues that no defence lawyers could have been called at that time because criminal proceedings had not started yet.

A forensics team of the EU law mission to Kosovo, EULEX, during the exhumation at Klecka found also a scythe which is believed to have been used to kill one of the five victims.

In one of the previous court hearings, the defence lawyer Agim Vertropi accused the prosecution of planting all sorts of items at the exhumation site.

The Special Prosecutor Salustro says that the defence argument should not be taken into consideration, and called upon the court to consider the evidence gathered at Klecka as acceptable.

“The prosecution believes that these evidence, combined with all the rest of evidence suffice to prove the criminal responsibility of all the accused. Therefore the prosecution asks for the Legal College to pronounce all the defendants guilty, and punish them according to the law,” states the prosecution's final statement.

Limaj, a popular figure in Kosovo, has already faced a war crimes trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY. The Hague Tribunal acquitted him of all the charges regarding his alleged involvement in crimes committed in the Lapusnik prison camp in 1998.

The defence teams have until Tuesday, March 27, to submit their final statements to the court.

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Background

Timeline – Cuska Case

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlac in Kosovo in 1999.

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