News 24 Apr 13

KLA Commander Limaj ‘Never Ran Kosovo War Jail’

At the trial of former KLA commander Fatmir Limaj for war crimes against prisoners at the Klecka detention centre, the guerrillas’ ex-legal adviser said the defendant didn’t control the jail.

Edona Peci, Genc Nimoni

Sokol Dobruna, the former top lawyer of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s general staff, told the court in Pristina on Tuesday that Limaj wasn’t in charge of the jail, where prisoners were allegedly abused during the late 1990s conflict with Serbian government forces in Kosovo.

“Fatmir Limaj didn’t have any powers over the Klecka detention centre nor had he any [powers] over the release of detainees,” Dobruna said.

Limaj, a lawmaker with Kosovo’s ruling Democratic Party, is one of ten suspects on trial over the Klecka jail and alleged war crimes against civilians.

According to the indictment, Limaj and the other co-defendants, also former KLA fighters, “violated the bodily integrity and health of an unspecified number of Serb and Albanian civilians and Serb prisoners of war”.

Dobruna, who was the KLA’s legal adviser from December 18, 1998 until the end of the conflict the following year, explained to the court the guerrillas’ internal legal procedures and decisions.

The KLA’s legal service and military court had the main responsibility for the detention centre, he said.

Dobruna also denied allegations that another defendant in the case, Naser Krasniqi, had any decision-making powers over the jail.

“Naser Krasniqi didn’t have anything to do with the Klecka detention centre. He only took detainees to the centre,” the witness explained.

Dobruna said he went several times to the jail – in a private house in the village of Klecka/Klecke -  where once he found two Serbs, one of whom was dead.

Both detainees, according to Dobruna, were later handed over to the OSCE mission in Kosovo.

Albanian civilians suspected of collaboration with the Serbian regime, Serbian civilians and Serbian police and military personnel were allegedly detained at Klecka, which according to the indictment also served as a detention centre for KLA soldiers investigated or sentenced for disciplinary offences.

Limaj was initially acquitted of the charges in May last year but the prosecution successfully appealed against the verdict and the case was sent for a retrial.

The ex-commander turned lawmaker and his co-accused are under house arrest after the court last week rejected the prosecution’s request to remand him in custody.

In a previous trial at the Hague Tribunal in 2005, Limaj was acquitted of war crimes against Serbs and Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbia during the Kosovo war and returned home to a hero’s welcome.

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