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KLA Insider Tells Haradinaj Trial of Woman's Murder

Former KLA military police officer testified only after he was indicted and arrested for refusing to appear at the trial of his former commander.
A former Kosovo guerrilla told the Hague tribunal this week how an Albanian woman was murdered after being found with the names of Serbian policemen in her address book.

Avni Krasniqi had previously refused to give evidence. But after he was indicted and arrested for contempt of court, he changed his mind.

He was testifying against Ramus Haradinaj and other former guerrilla leaders from the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, now facing 37 charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in 1998.

Haradinaj, who was prime minister of Kosovo until his indictment, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Krasniqi said he was a military police officer in the KLA and was driving the murdered woman, Sanije Baljaj, and Idriz Gasi, who headed the KLA Special Forces Unit, the Black Eagles, when he was told to stop the car.

Haradinaj set up the Black Eagles, which were notorious for punishing Albanians they deemed disloyal.

Gasi, also known as Galaj, took the woman out of the car and walked away.

"After a short while I heard shots and Galaj came back into the car alone. I was taken to bury the woman’s body in the evening of the same day, which I did, following Galaj’s order,” he said.

He told the prosecutor that a few days later, he went with Galaj, Balaj, a co-defendant in the trial who went by the nickname Togeri, and a few other men to dig up the body.

He took his cousin with him, who was also a member of the KLA, and was initially hesitant to answer the prosecutor when asked if he was afraid.

"People were simply afraid of Togeri,” he said, and noted that Galaj threatened him that he would end up dead if he ever mentioned the murder of the woman to anyone.

At the time of the event, Krasniqi was suspected of being involved in this murder, and has been linked to it by unofficial statements since. Due to certain inconsistencies in the accounts heard, the court insisted further clarifications on the event are needed the next time Krasniqi gives evidence.

Krasniqi’s initial refusal to give evidence has been part of a continual problem with finding witnesses to testify in Kosovo.

The Hague tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has several times pointed out, including in speeches before the United Nations Security Council, that there is a massive campaign of systematic harassment and intimidation of witnesses throughout Kosovo.

Two other witnesses besides Krasniqi have been indicted for contempt of court, and one of them, Sadri Selca, also only agreed to testify after being arrested.

Haradinaj is still politically influential in Kosovo. He remains deputy head of the Democratic Alliance for Kosovo party and recently stated that the party is ready for local and parliamentary elections. He is being allowed to remain politically active and his party is going to compete in the November 17 parliamentary poll.

The tribunal indictment of Haradinaj also includes charges of “condoning and encouraging criminal conduct committed by Idriz Balaj and other members of the Black Eagles, using his own house as operational centre”.

Marija Radovanovic is an IWPR reporter.

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