Family Of Kosovo War Crimes Witness In Disbelief


By Fatmir Aliu and Maryrose Fison

The family of Agim Zogaj, a key witness in the forthcoming Klecka war crimes trial against one of Kosovo’s most prominent politicians, Fatmir Limaj, question reports that he committed suicide.

Zogaj, known as “Witness X” in relation to a war crimes trial against Limaj and nine other defendents, provided key testimonials relating to events alleged to have taken place at the notorious Klecka camp during the Kosovo war in 1999.

Reportedly a former prison guard within the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, Zogaj allegedly received orders from Limaj, then the commander of the KLA, to execute others, leaked documents from his testimonials claim.

However it now remains unclear whether Zogaj, who was found in Duisberg, a quiet province in western Germany, was ever afforded any witness protection. It is also unclear what Zogaj was doing in Duisberg and how long he was there for.

Yesterday German police confirmed his body had been found in a park in Duisberg on Tuesday and described the cause of death as suicide.

“We had an indication that the man had been missing,”Ramon von der Maat, a spokesman for Duisberg police told Balkan Insight this morning.

Mr Maat said the police station had received a call at approximately 8.15pm German time on Tuesday night from a caller reporting Zogaj as missing. At 11.50pm Zogaj’s body was found in a park near Duisberg’s Essenberger See, a lake located in the Homberg neighbourhood of Duisberg.

“He killed himself,” Mr Maat added declining to provide details of the method used. An autopsy will be carried out on his body today.

Family reaction

Last night, Balkan Insight visited Zogaj’s parents who reside near the town of Prizren in southern Kosovo.

Idriz Zogaj, the father of Witness X, described his son’s death as murder and an unprecedented “big crime”.

“EULEX since the beginning has taken the wrong steps, they took him from home without his will and desire. They, and only them, are responsible for my son’s death,” the 80-year-old man told Balkan Insight referring to the European Union’s rule-of-law mission.

Idriz Zogaj has gathered his close family to discuss how to proceed with the funeral, and is waiting for his four sons to return to Kosovo from Germany, where they live and work.

The victim’s older son, Sahit questions how police in Germany could predict so quickly that his father had committed suicide.

“Why would he do so? If he handed himself over, and told what he knew, I don’t [know] why would he commit suicide. There was no reason for such a thing,” says Sahit.

Leaked Testimony

Earlier this year, in June, a 200 page document containing the testimony of Witness X was leaked to a Kosovo newspaper. In the newspaper’s account of the document, Witness X was quoted as saying that Fatmir Limaj had ordered him to execute the then KLA commander Blerim Kuci, who is today mayor of Suhareka, in the Kosovo war.

The document was published in the Pristina daily newspaper Koha Ditore and also contained alleged testimony about tortures and murders of prisoners held at the Klecka camp which was set up by the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1998. Witness X had also testified in 2010 in several sessions in front of EULEX prosecutors handling the case, the newspaper claimed the document showed.

In August, confirmation hearing sessions of an indictment against Limaj and nine other defendents on war crimes concluded but the court said more time would be needed to make a decision. During the second session of the hearing, defence lawyers said that the testimony given by Witness X was groundless.

Defence lawyers of Fatmir Limaj and nine other defendants said that there is no legal basis to file an indictment against their clients. During the session, Limaj said that he was not present at the time the alleged crimes had happened in Klecka camp and has facts to prove this.

This month, an international judge ruled that Limaj would be placed under house arrest for one month. The decision came after Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled that parliamentarians are not immune from prosecution if sought by the law.

In November 2005, Limaj was acquitted after a war crime trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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