K. Albanian professor among media workers executed by KLA

Shaban Hoti is among the 15 kidnapped and murdered journalists and media workers in Kosovo, the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) is reporting.

Source: UNS, Jelena L. Petkovic
(EPA, file, illustration purposes)
(EPA, file, illustration purposes)

Hoti - born in 1945 in Ratkovac - was a Russian language professor at the Pristina University, a translator, and a media worker who was captured and murdered while working with a Russian state television crew that was in Kosovo in July 1998 in an attempt to interview members of the KLA ("Kosovo Liberation Army") in the village of Lapusnik.

Hoti's is the 15th name on a list of murdered and kidnapped journalists and media workers in Kosovo, an UNS investigation has shown.

Upon arriving in Pristina on July 20, 1998, the Russian TV crew asked Hoti - who beside Russian and his mother tongue, also spoke English well - to assist them.

In his role as translator, Hoti departed on the journalistic assignment together with reporter Oleg Safiulov, cameraman Aleksandr Galanov, and sound engineer Viktor Mamaev.

In Lapusnik, on the Pristina-Pec road, KLA members first stopped their vehicle and told them they could not film there, and then captured the crew, taking away their equipment, documents, and money.

Two hours later, Hoti was separated and taken to the foot of a nearby hill in another vehicle. The journalists saw him next in a house in Lapusnik, battered, bloodied, and scared.

"When they took my blindfold off, I saw Shaban Hoti, because he was translating that conversion," Oleg Safiulin said in his testimony before the Hague Tribunal. "It was clear he had been beaten. He had a hematoma on his face, blood on his pants, shirt, and shoes, and he was very scared. He was simply shaking with fear. He had a lost look on his face."

The Russian journalists were released on July 21, 1998, around 19:30 hours, but Shaban Hoti was kept captive. Ahead of the arrival of Serbian forces in Lopusnik five days later, Hoti was shot dead on Mt. Berisa. His remains were exhumed from a mass grave at this location in April 2001.

Hajredin "Shala" Balaj, identified as a Lapusnik prison camp guard, was sentenced to 13 years by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY; Hague Tribunal) for the murder of Hoti and eight other civilians.

That was the first verdict, announced on November 30, 2005, the tribunal passed for war crimes committed in Kosovo. The indictment also included former regional KLA commander Fatmir Limaj, and his subordinate Isak Musliu, but they were acquitted - as the ICTY Prosecution "failed to demonstrate they had command on any other role in the KLA camp in Lapusnik and in the crimes committed there in the summer of 1998."

Hajredin Balaj died on January 31, 2018. The Kosovo Assembly started its session that day by honoring him with a minute's silence. Members of the Serb List took part in this as well - saying later they were tricked into it because the Assembly's translation service had been turned off.

A protected witness, who was himself imprisoned in Lapusnik, also testified about the crimes committed there during the Hague trial. He spoke about the brutal beating of Shaban Hoti, and said, replying to a question posed by the prosecutor: "In the first room, the one where we were kept the first time, Shala said, 'Look at what will happen to those translating for Russians'."


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