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Prosecutors Claim Former KLA Leaders May Influence Witnesses

Prosecutors Claim Former KLA Leaders May Influence Witnesses

The Hague-based Specialist Prosecutor’s Office claims that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) senior figures indicted for war crimes, Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi may influence witnesses and obstruct the process if released.

“The Suspects should be detained on the basis of all three criteria […] there is a risk of flight; the Suspects will obstruct the progress of the criminal proceedings, including by influencing witnesses, victims or accomplices; and the seriousness of the crime, or the manner or circumstances in which it was committed and the Suspects’ personal characteristics, past conduct, the environment and conditions in which they live or other personal circumstances indicate a risk that they will repeat the criminal offence or commit a crime which they have threatened to commit,” says the Prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants, published on Tuesday, November 17.

The prosecution claims that the suspects wield enormous influence over former KLA members and Kosovo in general.

“Individually and collectively, they have the ability to manipulate government bodies to evade and thwart proceedings against them, and to mobilise additional support bases, including those formerly under their command in the KLA and groups like the KLA War Veterans Association (‘KLAWVA’),” it says.

The redacted document published by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers says that certain suspects have a demonstrable record of obstructing law enforcement, and there is already evidence of attempts to interfere with the SPO investigative activities.

“For example, SHIK [Kosovo Intelligence Service] members answerable to Kadri VESELI and named JCE member Azem SYLA are implicated in surveilling, threatening and bribing witnesses testifying against former KLA members at the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia],” says the document.

It also states that individuals who worked for Selimi were “implicated in a [REDACTED] attempt to kill [REDACTED]”.

“Within an hour after the attempted murder, SELIMI tried to call one of the suspects and SELIMI subsequently contacted a Kosovo police officer requesting him to recover the [REDACTED] suspected to have been used in the assassination attempt,” Prosecution says in its request.

According to the Prosecution, the attempts to influence potential witnesses have also included hiring them to government positions.

“Sylejman SELIMI got out of prison on 25 January 2019 and was promptly served with an SPO summons on 29 January. Within 72 hours of being served, he was hired as a government ‘adviser’. Following a public outcry, SELIMI was let go from his responsibilities shortly after his February 2019 SPO interview, but not before receiving over €15,000 in salary for doing next to nothing,” it says.

Sylejman Selimi was found guilty of torturing a civilian prisoner at an improvised KLA detention centre in the village of Likovc, in Skenderaj municipality in 1998 and early 1999.

“In the same timeframe, named JCE member Rrustem MUSTAFA was interviewed by the SPO in January 2019. On 14 February, THACI hired him as an adviser with a salary of €18,000 per year-none of which was publicly disclosed until it was revealed in a report of the Kosovo Anti-Corruption Agency,” prosecution’s request adds.

The prosecution claims that each of the suspects has the means, motive and opportunity to interfere with witnesses, evade and obstruct proceedings.

“On [REDACTED] – [REDACTED] – was shot dead and [REDACTED] – [REDACTED]– was seriously injured. They were both witnesses in the [REDACTED] case, which had commenced [REDACTED] prior to the shooting, and concerning crimes related to the [REDACTED] detention site. [REDACTED]’s house had also previously been bombed and further shooting incidents had occurred against other witnesses,” it says.

Saying that Thaci and Veseli had attempted to generate support for abolition of the KSC, the document reveals that prosecutors had interviewed the Kosovo’s former president in The Hague.

“THACI has since publicly lied about the extent of his personal involvement with the SPO,” it says, referring to an article published by the daily Zeri on April, 1, 2020, where Thaci speaks up whether he was interviewed in The Hague. “THACI was in fact served an SPO summons on 17 November 2019, and first appeared in the Hague for interview on 12 December 2019,” it adds.

Thaci, Veseli, Selimi and Krasniqi are charged with six counts of crimes against humanity, namely: persecution, imprisonment, other inhumane acts, torture, murder and enforced disappearance of persons; and four counts of war crimes, namely: arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder.

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