Pristine, July 17, 2013
By Tinka Kurti
The MP of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Fatmir Limaj is currently facing two court trials, while undergoing house arrest on counts of war crimes. Given that he was arrested a little before the elections within PDK when he was vice chairman of the party and that due to his remand into custody he was not elected in any post, there have been rumors that this has been a political process.
Limaj was released from Hague where he faced the same charges, but with the new trial, he has returned for the second time into house arrest on “Kleçka” trial. All witnesses in this trial have accused the prosecutor of EULEX, Maurizio Salustro for putting pressure against them
PDK member of parliament Nait Hasani says that his arrest alone was a breach of his rights.
“To me this is an absurd case and an unprecedented breach. He was released by the Tribunal of Hague and on the same charges, the Court of Appeal has remanded him into house arrest. To me, being a former political prisoner, this is a breach. The charges brought against Limaj are part of an armed war for liberation and as such, it has been a fair war.”
According to him, this process is a breach of all justice systems and of human values.
“The issue of defense has become more of an individual matter than an institutional one. Our state and the government has not done enough for the liberators. Serbia has defended its criminals, Croatia and Bosnia have defended their liberators, whereas we have left them to deal with their own personal issues”, said Hasani.
Contacted by Balkan Independent News Agency, Durim Limaj, son of Fatmir Limaj, says that his father cannot talk for the media, as the house arrest forbids him to do so. He also says that his father is waiting for the trial to end. Meanwhile, he doesn’t issue comments on the trial for fear of intervening in the justice system.
“We don’t want to comment the trial given that it’s still underway. The proceedings have been public and we cannot say anything about them”, said Durim Limaj, son of Fatmir Limaj MP for Balkan Independent News Agency.
The defending attorney of Fatmir Limaj, Tomë Gashi says that the house arrest was unnecessary.
“EULEX is not even making efforts to conceal the fact that the law is being breached in the case of Fatmir Limaj, at a time when everyone can notice that there are strong political influences on this case”, said Gashi for Balkan Independent News Agency. He says that EULEX has often made a show of Limaj’s trial.
“The re-institution of the house arrest is a proof that the legal system of Kosovo experiences such unprecedented shows. For the second time, the Court of Appeal placed Fatmir Limaj and the others under house arrest”, said Gashi.
Meanwhile, Betim Musliu from the Institute for Justice of Kosovo, who has participated in several court proceedings against Limaj, has compared his trial to a TV series.
“It’s been many years that Limaj’s case in Kosovo has turned into a TV series. Fatmir Limaj has spent many years facing trials against him, former fellow fighters, government collaborators and family members. Limaj also faced charges of war crimes in the Tribunal of Hague, in which he was acquitted”, said Musliu for Balkan Independent News Agency.
Musliu has also mentioned another two trials, one relating once again to war crimes, while the other for corruption as “minister of asphalt”.
“I cannot assess the proofs or testimonies in either of the cases, but I can say that judicial practices applied in both cases have been highly unprofessional. Including Limaj’s case, EULEX prosecutors have raised unfounded charges in many of the high profile cases. Here I can mention the cases against the Governor, the Airport, Customs, Post Office, etc, which were all a show and at the end, the court acquitted them. This is why I believe that even in Limaj’s case, based on what we have been able to monitor, EULEX has showed an unprofessional approach”, adds Mr. Musliu for Balkan Independent News Agency.
He also says that in “Kleçka” trial, the prosecutor of the case has been accused by the witnesses, more than the defendants themselves, for putting pressure about the testimonies.
“Let us take ‘Kleçka’ trial… Kosovo has serious problems as far as the protection of witnesses is concerned. Nonetheless, in ‘Kleçka’ trial something unusual has happened. We have had amended testimonies and in many cases, the prosecutor has been accused by witnesses, more than the defendants themselves, for putting pressure about testimonies. We can also mention the MTPT trial for corruption. There have been serious arguments between the defense and the prosecutor for lack of compliance with the penal procedure as far as investigations were concerned. But in the end, justice will decide and in this case, the court”, adds he.
Musliu also says that there have been a lot of rumors that this case has been politically influenced. “For Limaj’s case, there have been accusations for political influences, but I’d like to believe that everything will be decided based on the law and justice. Nobody agrees for crimes to benefit an amnesty, but at the same time, nobody agrees for someone who is innocent to be persecuted with every means available for the benefit of someone else. I believe that the right will prevail at the end, given the proofs and testimonies given in court”, says Mr. Musliu for Balkan Independent News Agency.
“House arrest for Fatmir Limaj and our fellow fighters, which are being tried in a politically orchestrated process, is a continuation of the psychological war of EULEX against the fighters of KLA. EULEX is showing great determination, when it comes to the fight against the holy values of the Albanian nation”, said the representative of this organization, Muharrem Xhemajli.
Self Determination Movement has reacted against the decision to place Fatmir Limaj and the others on “Kleçka” case under house arrest. According to Self Determination, after the initial failure of this trial, it was reactivated for political reasons. “Why now and why house arrest? Up until now, Fatmir Limaj has always appeared in a voluntary way, be it in the Hague Tribunal, be it in the Kosovo courts. Even this time, he returned from Albania to participate in the trial. Why is the house arrest necessary then?”, states the official positioning of Self Determination.
According to Self Determination, which is led by Albin Kurti, a party which has been considered as an extremist one, these actions against Fatmir Limaj aim to stigmatize the war of the people and not the work of the government.
In its positioning, Self Determination also raises a number of questions such as: “Why is Prime Minister Hashim Thaci not arrested?” For this party, “state structures want to make Limaj look as a very corrupt person, and Thaci as a person who is not at all corrupt”.
“Mr. Limaj has also faced charges for corruption at the Ministry of Transport (MTPT), but that trial has not started yet, while enquirers have started two years ago. While MTPT trial is being dragged on for years, “Kleçka” trial is being processed quickly, because they want to try Fatmir Limaj as a fighter of KLA and not as a minister. They want to stigmatize the war efforts of the people for liberation and not the work of the government”, says Self Determination of Albin Kurti.
Fatmir Limaj has been arrested in November 2012. On July 15, 2013 he was placed under house arrest for the second time. Meanwhile, the arrest was suspended for the second time on July 3 by judge Malcolm Sidmond, but prosecutor Salustro took the case to the Court of Appeal.
The Special Prosecution of Kosovo has addressed charges against Fatmir Limaj and nine of his fellow fighters for allegedly perpetrating war crimes from the beginning of 1999 until mid June 1999 against Serb and Albanian civilians and against prisoners of the Serbian army and police held in a detention center of KLA, which was situated in the village of Kleçka. Limaj is also facing another trial for corruption in the so called MTPT case. /ibna/