Fatmir Ljimaj acquitted of war crimes charges
PRISTINA/BELGRADE - A court in Pristina acquitted on Tuesday due to a lack of evidence former Kosovo Liberation Army member Fatmir Ljimaj, who had been charged with ordering and taking part in torture of Serb and Albanian civilians and Serbian troops and police officers at a prison camp in Klecka.
Ljimaj was also acquitted for the same crimes and on the same basis by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia more than three years ago.
A mixed trial chamber of EULEX and Kosovo judges acquitted the remaining indictees as well: Arben Krasnici, Naser Krasnici, Naser Salja, Nedzmi Krasnici, Behljulj Ljimaj, Saban Salja, Sabit Salja, Besim Surdaj and Refki Mazreku, EULEX said.
The judges believe the prosecution's arguments are mainly based on the evidence supplied by now deceased witness Agim Zogaj.
Zogaj's statement, known as his journal, contains 200 pages describing the events related to the camp in Klecka, including claims that Ljimaj personally ordered the death of two Serbs.
Shortly before Ljimaj's trial was scheduled to start, in 2011, Zogaj was found hanged in a park in Duisburg, Germany.
He had been under EULEX protection for 2 years, ever since he turned himself over to the authorities and agreed to speak about crimes committed by Ljimaj and 9 others accused of crimes in Klecka.
Office: Ljimaj's acquittal more than unpleasant surprise
BELGRADE - The Serbian government's Office for Kosovo-Metohija has stated that it is “more than unpleasantly surprised” at the news that the Basic Court in Pristina acquitted the former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Fatmir Ljimaj who had been charged with war crimes in the Klecka case.
“It is a devastating fact that no one has been found guilty for the killed and tortured Serbs in the village of Klecka. And the remains of the massacred bodies have been exhumed and identified and have names and surnames. Only those who committed the crime remained without a name and surname, as it is always the case when it comes to Serb victims in Kosovo-Metohija,” the Office for KiM notes.
The release notes that a mixed panel of judges, which comprised two EULEX judges and one Kosovo judge, also cleared of all charges the other accused in the case- Arben Krasnici, Naser Krasnici, Naser Sala, Nedzmi Krasnici, Behljulj Ljimaj, Sabit Sala, Saban Sala, Besim Surdaj and Refki Mazreku.
Taking into account that this is a first-instance ruling, the Office for KiM wants to believe that the EULEX prosecutor will appeal against it, and that the criminals will be brought to justice, the release says.
The Office for KiM underlines that the arrest and condemnation of criminals in this and other cases is a prerequisite for normal life in Kosovo-Metohija.
The Basic Court in Pristina acquitted Ljimaj on Tuesday due to a lack of evidence. He had been charged with ordering and partaking in torture of Serb and Albanian civilians and Serbian troops and police officers at a prison camp in Klecka in the municipality of Lipljan.
The prosecutor at the Special Prosecution Office of Kosovo can still appeal against the verdict.
Acquittal of Limaj – gross mistake of Pristina court
The crimes of Fatmir Limaj and nine more indicted former members of the so-called KLA, charged of crimes in the village of Klecka in Kosmet, have been proven by plenty of evidence, regardless of the diary of Agim Zogaj, a member of that para-military formation. Many among the indicted have been convicted in the first degree before the courts in Serbia, so yesterday’s decision of the District court in Pristina to acquit Limaj represents a gross mistake, believes professor of the criminal law at the Belgrade Law School Milan Skulic.
“This is a notorious move, since there is much evidence of grave crimes committed by Limaj and other indictees, so it can be said that in this case politics were prevalent over the law”, says Skulic. He points that one must not forget the fate of witness Agim Zogaj, who was found hanged in Germany, immediately prior to the beginning of the trial, but also numerous “sudden” deaths of other witnesses of crimes by KLA. “Nobody must neglect the fact of evidence being destroyed for years in the territory of Kosmet, related to members of KLA and their criminal structures. Regardless of the great difficulties caused by Kosmet not being under the full jurisdiction of Belgrade, the Serbian judiciary should keep on working in line with positive legal regulations, and prosecute all those under founded suspicion of committing serious felonies, and it has been proven beyond doubt that there were crimes in Klecka”, Skulic says categorically.
The trial chamber of international judges in the Pristina District Court decided yesterday to declare invalid the testimony of the “Witness X”, i.e. Agim Zogaj, in the Klecka case, although it represented the strongest evidence of the indictment against Fatmir Limaj and none former members of the self-proclaimed KLA. EULEX Spokesperson Irina Gudeljevic has stated that the Chamber had decided that statements and diaries of Agim Zogaj were inadmissible. Shortly before the beginning of the trial, Zogaj was found dead in Duisburg, Germany, and the police stated at issue was suicide. Over the course of two years spent in the KLA, Zogaj wrote 49 pages about the crimes in Klecka, where Serb civilians had been tortured with cruelty and then burnt. Among other things, Zogaj wrote that he had been forced by Limaj to kill some prisoners, including women and children. Limaj has been tried already in The Hague for war crimes, but was released due to the lack of evidence.
There is no precise information about how many people were murdered in that prison, which resembled, judging by tortures and executions, the infamous concentration camps Jasenovac and Auschwitz from WWII. According to some sources, however, around one hundred Serb civilians were killed there.