Monks testify in trial of Orahovac KLA group

Monks and several locals from villages in Kosovo testified at the trial of Sinan Morina yesterday.

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However, neither the monks from the Holy Healers Monastery in Zočište nor the other witnesses were able to identify Morina as one of the members of the so-called Orahovac Group who, according to the indictment, participated in the deportation and imprisonment of Serb civilians, and set fire to and destroyed property and religious buildings in the municipality of Orahovac in Kosovo in 1998.

The monks, Vladimir Rančić and Branko Preradović, told the War Crimes Court that the monastery was bombed early on July 21, 1998, and that, besides the monks, locals from the villages of Opteruša and Retimlje, mainly the elderly and disabled, were also sheltering there.

Rančić said that the artillery barrage was followed by small-arms fire, and that he had volunteered to go out and negotiate with the Kosovo Liberation Army members.

“We said we were monks, that we didn’t want to hurt anyone and that we wanted to negotiate,“ recalled the monk, adding that they had handed over their weaponry and ammunition.

According to his testimony, afterwards, the KLA members drove the monks and the locals by bus to the village of Semetište, where they were held for two days, before being freed upon the arrival of the international Red Cross.

They said that there had suffered no physical abuse.

A witness, Goran Đorđević, had been at a religious celebration at the monastery when the bombardment had started, and was taken with the monks to Semetište.

“We wanted to surrender and to negotiate, but they surrounded us. They were suspicious of me, so they put a blindfold on me with the emblem of a black eagle, questioned and beat with truncheons,“ he remembered.

Petra Kostić, whose sons were killed, described how after the KLA attack on the night of July 17/18, she had found refuge at the monastery in Zočište together with other women from Opteruša and Retimlje.

“We agreed to hand our weapons over, and they lined us up against a wall, and divided us,“ she said, saying that that had been the last time she had seen her sons, Lazar and Todor.

Crime

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