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Kosovo Duo On Trial At Tribunal Over Intimidation

Kosovo duo facing trial at UN tribunal over alleged intimidation of witness

28 April 2008 - Kosovo's ex-minister for culture, youth and sport and a former newspaper editor will appear tomorrow before the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after being charged with contempt of court for allegedly trying to intimidate a witness in a war crimes trial.

Astrit Haraqija and Bajrush Morina are accused by prosecutors - in an indictment filed in January and made public by the ICTY on Friday - of attempting to persuade a protected witness with the codename PW not to testify against Ramush Haradinaj, the former prime minister of Kosovo.

Mr. Haradinaj, who was a prominent commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the conflict with Serb forces in 1998-99, was acquitted by the ICTY earlier this month of a series of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture, abduction, cruel treatment, imprisonment and the forced deportation of Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians.

When they announced the verdict, the judges said the tribunal had encountered many difficulties in securing testimony from witnesses during the trials of Mr. Haradinaj and his two co-accused.

The indictment released on Friday states that Mr. Haraqija, a former minister of culture, youth and sport in Kosovo, was one of the three co-founders of the "Defence Committee for Ramush Haradinaj." Mr. Morina was his employee, working as a political adviser, and then also as a part-time editor at Bota Sot, a Kosovo newspaper.

PW was granted protective measures in 2005 and early last year his unredacted witness statements were disclosed by prosecutors to the defence teams of Mr. Haradinaj and his co-accused.

The indictment alleges that after learning of the identity of the witness last July, Mr. Haraqija instructed Mr. Morina to travel to PW's country of residence to persuade him not to testify, and that Mr. Morina met with the witness on 10-11 July in a trip paid for by the ministry.

PW eventually did testify at the trial, according to the indictment.

Meanwhile, a former senior Bosnian Croat figure, Jadranko Prlić, facing trial on war crimes charges has been granted temporary provisional leave by the ICTY on humanitarian grounds. On Friday the tribunal agreed to release Mr. Prlić until the start of his defence case, scheduled for Monday.

Mr. Prlic and five other co-accused, all former high-level leaders in the Bosnian Croat wartime entity known as Herceg-Bosna, stand accused of war crimes committed in 1992 and 1993 against Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats in south-western and central Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the municipalities of Prozor, Gornji Vakuf, Jablanica, Mostar, Ljubuški, Stolac, Capljina and Vareš.

The many charges include murder, rape, unlawful deportation, imprisonment, cruel treatment, unlawful labour, the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds.

ENDS

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