News 20 Dec 12

Sweden Acquits Serbian Policeman of Kosovo Crimes

A Swedish appeal court on Wednesday acquitted a former Serbian police officer convicted in January of war crimes in the Kosovo village of Cuska in 1999.

Marija Ristic

The ruling came after a Swedish court in January sentenced Milic Martinovic to life in prison for the murder of civilians in the Kosovo village of Cuska in May 1999.

The Appellate Court quashed the first-instance ruling on Wednesday, saying not enough evidence was provided to prove Martinovic’s involvement.

"The appeals court finds that there are doubts and risks regarding the identification. This is a person whom none of the villagers knew, and the identifications were made several years after the events," the court said.

"In addition, pictures of the suspect had appeared in the media for a while before the identifications," it added.

"These photographs, taken a year before the massacre, show him in uniform, sometimes together with people who were known to be involved in the Cuska events," it said.

The court acknowledged that Martinovic had been subjected to wiretapping when several people were arrested in Serbia in 2010 for involvement in the Cuska massacre and that the recordings showed he knew about the massacre.

"But in the court's view the wiretap does not prove that the 35-year-old participated in the massacre," it said.

Martinovic was arrested in April 2010 in Sweden on suspicion of having been one of the Serbian fighters who attacked Cuska on May 14, 1999.

Serbia's Prosecutor’s Office for War Crimes is running a case against 13 people, former members of the unit known as the Jackals, for the crime.

The indictment says the Jackals killed at least 44 people and robbed Albanian homes in order to spread fear among the villagers and force them to leave and move to Albania.

Following the attack, over 400 villagers, including women, children and the elderly, left their homes. Before the conflict, Cuska had some 2,000 inhabitants, mostly ethnic Albanian.

The prosecution says the village was targeted as the birthplace of Agim Ceku, former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army,KLA, and now Minister for the Security Forces in Kosovo.

During the attack, Ceku's own family home was burned, while his father, Hasan Ceku, was killed.

The attack on Cuska came in the midst of the conflict in Kosovo between Serbian security forces and the KLA, and the trial is one of the biggest war-crime cases to be heard before a Belgrade court.

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