Ex-KLA members to face Belgrade judge

BELGRADE -- Nine of the ten suspects arrested yesterday in Preševo are being questioned in Belgrade this Saturday.

Gendarmes take suspects to MUP HQ in Belgrade (Beta)
Gendarmes take suspects to MUP HQ in Belgrade (Beta)

One suspect was held for questioning at the Vranje MUP HQ, it was announced on Friday.

The interrogations of the suspects are underway in Belgrade, with Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Mioljub Vitorović present.

The prosecution office is expected to ask the court to start an investigation on Sunday, when the group of those arrested on Friday will be brought before an investigative judge.

Those arrested are former KLA members whom the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution believes were involved in war crimes that included torture and monstrous killings of at least 51 Serb civilians in the Gjilane area after the 1999 war in the province.

The group kidnapped a total of 159 Serbs and non-Albanians.

The raids yesterday in Preševo, in Serbia's southern areas that have the largest ethnic Albanian population outside of Kosovo itself, started at 04:00 CET, after four months of preparations.

The three leaders of the group remain at large, and are believed to be living in Kosovo, it was revealed yesterday.

MUP's elite Žandarmerija (Gendarmerie) officers, with logistics support from intelligence agency BIA, raided a total of 17 locations, making ten arrests.

Interior Minister Ivica Dačić was in the area to personally oversee the operation, and said that it went smoothly, with video cameras recording its progress. But local Albanians were saying that the Gendarmes used "unnecessary force".

However, the situation it the town was calm.

War Crimes Prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekarić said that the so-called Gnjilane Group was tasked with driving the remaining Serbs out of the area after the 1999 war. At that point, NATO and UN were deployed in the province.

Vekarić described some of the torture and killings the Serbs civilians were subjected to as "unfit to be motioned in the media due to ethics concerns".