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The Bytyqi Case - Crime and Secret

The bodies of Agron (23), Mehmet (21) and Ylli (25) Bytyqi were found in 2001, on top of a mass grave in Petrovo Selo, near Kladovo, eastern Serbia.

The Petrovo Selo mass graves also contained the bodies of 67 men and seven women from Kosovo.

The bodies were brought in cold storage trucks, via eastern Serbia, while workers of public communal companies were engaged in their burial in Petrovo Selo.

It was established that the Bytyqi brothers were killed in July 1999, on Petrovo Selo police training grounds, shortly after the end of the war in Kosovo.

The brothers fought in the KLA’s ”Atlantic Brigade”. They were U.S. citizens, Chicago, Illinois natives. They entered what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) from Albania, without being registered with the state institutions.

Before arriving in Kosovo, they lived in New York, where they owned a pizza parlor. Their mother and family lived in Prizren at the time.

Immediately after the NATO campaign in then FRY ended and the Kumanovo Agreement was signed, they helped their neighbors, the Mitrovic’s, Gypsies from Prizren, to return to Kraljevo, where they escaped during the war.

The Bytyqis were stopped by the police on the administrative border between Kosovo and Serbia proper. Due to a violation of the Law on Movement and Residence of Foreigners, a magistrate sentenced them to 15 days in prison, which they served in a jail in Prokuplje.

After appealing for an early release, they were set free three days before the end of their sentence. They were taken out the back door of the Prokuplje prison on July 8, 1999. Their neighbor Miroslav, who was notified that the brothers would be released, waited for them at the main entrance.

According to the testimony submitted by Miroslav Mitrovic, head of the Prokuplje prison Aleksandar Đordevic told him that two men in plain clothes came to collect the Bytyqi brothers, driving a white car with no license plates.

At that moment, the Bytyqi brothers were on their way to Petrovo Selo, several hundred kilometers away from Prokuplje. They were taken to the MUP Special Anti-Terrorist unit (SAJ) base. Two days later, they were killed with bullets fired to the back of their heads, and buried in a mass grave which already contained the bodies of the murdered Kosovo Albanians.

From the moment of their disappearance, their brother Fatos and their entire family which now resides in New York, have undertaken a private investigation. At the same time, the FBI is conducting its own investigation, while the U.S. embassy in Belgrade monitors the case carefully. The United States sees the murder of the Bytyqi brothers as a pre-meditated crime committed against its citizens.

The New York headquarters of the American – Albanian friendship organization have asked the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to ”condition any further assistance to Belgrade with a swift and clear solution of the Bytyqi brothers case”. The American side insisted that the FBI experts conduct the post-mortems and identification of the three men along with the Serbian doctors. U.S. Consul-General Thomas Rice took over the Bytyqi brothers’ remains in February 2002, in order for them to be transported to Illinois.

The Negotin District Prosecution, after interviewing some 30 witnesses, decided to request the start of the investigation against Vlastimir Đordevic, former head of MUP’s Public Security, on suspicion of having illegally detained the Bytyqi brothers. Since at that point Đordevic had already fled, the Kladovo municipal court was asked to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Đordevic was the commander of the MUP forces in Kosovo in the early 1980’s. He was Slobodan Miloševic’s trusted aide. While the mass graves were being discovered in Serbia, former Minister of the Interior, Dušan Mihajlovic, who declined to appear in this film, told the media that it was Đordevic who was one of those to implement Miloševic’s order to ”sanitize the frontline” and dispose of the Kosovo victims. In July 1999, Miloševic awarded Đordevic the Medal of the Yugoslav Flag of the First Degree. He was forced into retirement in May 2001, when the cold storage truck containing the bodies of Kosovo Albanians was discovered in the Danube. His alleged war crimes while commanding police forces in Kosovo earned him the status of one of the most wanted men from the Hague Tribunal’s indictee list.

The State Prosecutor demanded that General Goran Radosavljevic Guri, former MUP Gendarmerie unit commander, also be interviewed. The Prosecutor stated that there was suspicion that Radosavljevic was acquainted with the case, since he commanded the police structure where the Bytyqi brothers were held, and was in constant communication with Vlastimir Đordevic.

General Radosavljevic said at the time that he was in Petrovo Selo only occasionally, while at the time of the crime, July 1999, he was on annual leave, on a hunting trip with friends.

”I remember meeting Vlastimir Đordevic in the MUP building once after I returned to work, and on that occasion he asked me where I was the previous week and whether Sreten Popovic had informed me about some event. I told him I was on holiday and asked what this was about. General Đordevic told me everything was fine and that he had finished that business with Popovic”.

General Radosavljevic told us he did not wish to speak about the Bytyqi case as the investigation was ongoing, as well as that he gave his statement to the authorities.

Miroslav Mitrovic died in Kraljevo in 2004, where his family lives today in fear of double revenge. On the one hand, they feel threatened by the Kosovo Serbs living in Kraljevo for having helped Kosovo Albanians, KLA members, and on the other by Albanians themselves who believe they are responsible for the Bytyqi brothers’ deaths. Miroslav’s wife Ajša who was with him in Prokuplje when he went to ask about the Bytyqis, says fear mixed with remorse is what killed him.

Slobodan Borisavljevic, a high MUP official in the Miloševic regime, well acquainted with the crimes the police committed then, now once again holds one of the top MUP positions, as head of the War Crimes Department. Among many important appointments, Borisavljevic was chief of cabinet to the head of MUP Public Security, General Vlastimir Đordevic. According to the testimony by Dragan Karleuša, who lead the cold storage truck and Batajnica and Petrovo Selo mass graves investigations, Slobodan Borisavljevic was aware of the crimes that took place, since he attended a meeting during which Vlastimir Đordevic gave instructions for the implementation of the so-called field sanitization, ordered by Slobodan Miloševic, Radomir Markovic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic.

Slobodan Borisavljevic declined to speak about the Bytyqi case on the grounds that the investigation was ongoing.

The Negotin District Prosecution submitted a request to the MUP on several occasions to determine the facts on who ordered the killing of the Bytyqis, and who executed that order. The same has been done by the Special War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic.

In a letter sent from Moscow, published in Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf, Đordevic writes:

”As for my role in the Bytyqi case I can say the following: I was informed that the three Albanians who arrived from America and fought with the KLA had crossed the border illegally, were caught and detained and sentenced for illegal entry. After the Prokuplje MUP chief informed me their detention period was expiring, I informed the minister, who ordered me to have members of a special police unit take them over and place them in the Petrovo Selo training center, while he would send a team over at a later date to process them and determine their role and the possibility that they had committed crimes as members of the KLA. I relayed the order to the on duty officers at the center via telephone, and they later reported to me that the task was completed and that the persons in question were taken over by the designated team. I remember well that I instructed the center on duty staff to take good care of their security. The allegation that Slobodan Miloševic ordered me, in a meeting attended by Vlajko Stojiljkovic, Radomir Markovic, myself and others (according to Karleuša), to conduct the sanitizing of the field, is completely false. I am ready to appear before any domestic court that is set to determine the truth and the degree of individual responsibility.”

In a statement given to a Kaldovo Municipal Court judge, police inspector Zoran Stankovic said the orders to free the Bytyqi brothers existed, as well as that he thought they had received them.

”I spoke to someone from the prison. They told me that on that day, around one o’clock in the afternoon, two persons arrived in a white vehicle and took them over. That was the first time that I had heard of something like that happening in my entire career. Later on I learned from the prison warden that he had received a call earlier that day from Prokuplje MUP chief Milisav Vuckovic, informing him some MUP personnel would come to collect the Bytyqi brothers”.