News 25 May 12

Sonmez Ready to Testify in the Medicus Case

A Turkish doctor at the centre of organ trafficking allegations has sent his lawyer to the court in Pristina to offer his cooperation in the Medicus case.

Fatmir Aliu

Yusuf Sonmez, a surgeon, is ready to testify by video-link from Turkey to prove his innocence, his lawyer, Murat Sofuoglu, told BIRN.

“He did not kill or injure anybody, and has dedicated his life to helping people. I can confirm that he did perform operations, but this was not a crime, as there was a letter from the Ministry of Health which confirmed Medicus’ license to conduct transplants,” said Sofuoglu.

The Medicus case involves allegations that a group of people brought poor donors and rich recipients to a clinic in Kosovo, and then organised and carried out kidney transplants.

Seven Kosovo Albanians and two foreigners, one of whom is Somnez, have been charged with human trafficking, organised crime and unlawful medical activities. The accused includes the alleged ringleader, university professor and owner of the clinic, Lutfi Dervishi.

Allegedly, poor people were lured from Istanbul, Moscow, Moldova and Kazakhstan on the false promise that they would get up to €15,000 for their organs. According to the indictment, 30 operations involving illegal kidney transplants took place at the Medicus clinic. 

The Medicus clinic, just outside of Pristina, is also linked to a December 2010 Council of Europe report which alleged that elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army traded the organs of prisoners during the 1999 conflict.

During the court hearing on Thursday, the EU's rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, prosecutor Jonathan Ratel announced that the alleged mastermind behind the organ trafficking network, Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen, had been arrested by the Israeli authorities.

“10 persons were arrested in Israel, relating to the case, among whom is Moshe Harel,” Ratel said, adding that he has initiated extradition procedures to get the suspect to Kosovo.

Harel has been charged with human trafficking and organised crime.

Sonmez’s lawyer tried to attend the hearing at Pristina’s District Court on Wednesday, but was ordered to leave the courtroom by the presiding judge Arkadiusz Sedek, since the EULEX judge considered that the lawyer “could get valuable information.”

“That would never happen in a European Court. It’s against human rights, and it violates the independence of the court,” Sofuoglu said.

“This shows that the judge is prejudiced against my client and I will advise him [Yusuf Sonmez] not to come here, because I believe the court may be biased,” he added.

Sonmez , nicknamed “Doctor Vampire”, was arrested in Istanbul at the beginning of January 2011, and later released on bail. Last year a Turkish prosecutor asked for Sonmez to be sentenced to 171 years in prison for the illegal transplantations carried out in the Medicus clinic.

His lawyer told BIRN that his client continues his work in Istanbul where he lives.


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