Ex-KLA members found guilty of war crimes

A group of former members of the ethnic Albanian KLA has been found guilty of committing war crimes and sent to jail for a total of 116 years.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug

This was the outcome of the retrial, which wrapped up in Belgrade on Wednesday.

Of the 17 defendants charged, six have been acquitted by a panel of judges of the War Crimes Department of the Higher Court, presided over by Judge Snežana Nikolić-Graotić.

Between June and December 1999, the group tortured to death at least 80 people, most of them Serbs and other non-Albanians, the court had found.

34 persons believed to have been their victims are still listed as missing. A total of 153 more civilians were illegally detained, tortured and then released.

The so-called Gnjilane Group - named after the town in Kosovo where the war crimes took place - includes Agus Memsi, Samet Hajdari, Nazi Hajdari, Ahmet Hasani, Burim Fazli, Selmon Sadiku, Faton Hajdari, Ferat Hajdari, Kamber Sahiti, Sadik Alija and Sefket Musliju. They will spend between five and 15 years behind bars.

At the same time Fazlija Ajdari, Redzep Saciri, Alija Idriz, Halimi Ramanan - all fugitives from justice - have been acquitted, as well as Semsi Nuhiju who was extradited to Serbia in May 2012.

Judge Nikolić-Graotić read the verdict to explain that the defendants had committed war crimes against civilians, and proceeded to describe in detail the torture and rape that two survivors - who testified for the prosecution as protected witnessed - had recounted.

The War Crimes Prosecutor's Office is satisfied with the portion of the verdict which pronounced the majority of the members of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Gnjilane Group guilty - "but will lodge an appeal against the not-guilty verdicts for six of the defendants", Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Bruno Vekarić told Tanjug on Wednesday.

"Justice has only been partially done, considering the things they did. The length of the sentences they received is only partial satisfaction for the victims," said Vekarić.

Vekarić said this was a high-risk trial and the court worked under extremely high pressure, considering the frequent incidents which occurred between the prosecution and the defendants.

First defendant Agus Memisi, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison today, recently threatened the deputy prosecutor with retaliation.

Vekarić said the Prosecutor's Office would certainly appeal the acquittals verdicts, while it would make a decision regarding the guilty verdicts after it received a written judgment.

The first degree verdict against the group was overturned by the Belgrade Court of Appeals in December 2011, when the case was sent for retrial. The original verdict amounted to a total of 101 years in prison handed down to the members of the group, arrested in late 2008 in the town of Preševo



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