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Corruption

Kosovo Murder Retrial Urged After EU Bribe Claims

The family of three murder victims called for a retrial after allegations that an EU rule-of-law mission judge in Kosovo took a bribe to clear one of the suspects.

Jeta Xharra, Petrit Collaku
BIRN

Pristina

The scandal that hit the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) this week when one of its prosecutors accused a judge of corruption has taken a new turn after the Baftiu family called for the murder case to be reopened in light of the claims that one suspect paid a bribe to avoid conviction.

“Following the new testimonies that have surfaced in the media, we believe there is enough evidence to have a retrial in this case and that is why we have met with Jonathan Ratel, the head of the EULEX special prosecution, and asked him to consider this evidence for a retrial,” said Arben Baftiu.

Urim Baftiu (aged 16), Sylejman Baftiu (17) and Neshat Baftiu (28) were murdered in 2007 near Kacanik, a small town in eastern Kosovo.

Two men, Besnik Hasani and Shpend Qerimi, both former Kosovo special police officers, were convicted of the killings. At the time, they were already serving sentences for staging a bomb blast on Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina in 2007 which killed two people.

However the third suspect in the Baftiu triple murder case, Nusret Cena, was cleared.

Suspended EULEX prosecutor Maria Bamiah claimed this week that Italian judge Francesco Florit was given a 300,000 euro bribe to clear all three suspects, but only freed Cena.

The Hitman and the Corruption Case

Suspended prosecutor Maria Bamiah has also alleged that Jonathan Ratel, the head of the EULEX Special Prosecution Office, did not allow her to interview Nazim Bllaca, a member of Kosovo’s unofficial post-war secret service and a self-confessed assassin, about a corruption case allegedly involving an MP.

Bamieh said that the case involved allegations against former MP Azem Syla, a top Democratic Party of Kosovo official, and others. But Ratel told her that Bllaca was not a credible witness, she said.

“I was dealing with cases of privatisation and wanted to speak with him. But I’m not allowed. I do not know what Jonathan’s reasoning was,” she told BIRN.

She said that another EULEX prosecutor, Diana Wilson, also asked to interview Bllaca for another case, but Ratel did not allow it.

Ratel told BIRN that he did not want to respond to Bamieh’s allegations.

“As far as I understand from these claims, when this money was about to be given, Francesco Flori said no, 300,000 euro can release only one person and thus Nusret Cena was released,” Bamieh told BIRN’s TV show Jeta ne Kosove (‘Life in Kosovo’).

The judge has strongly denied the claims. “I have never received, and never been offered, any bribe from anyone,” Florit told BIRN.

But Bamiah’s allegations were supported by Flurim Asani, the brother of the jailed Besnik Hasani.

“I went to Albania with my lawyer Mahmut Halimi who met with Francesco Florit in the port of Durres and they went on a boat and had a meeting for four hours. This meeting was to negotiate how much money we were to pay for the release of all three suspects including my brother,” Asani told BIRN.

“I then contributed 50,000 euro to a total of 270,000 that we gave to Francesco Florit through Nusret Cena and his lawyer Azem Vllasi,” he added.

BIRN has obtained a document showing that Asani gave the same statement incriminating Florit to the EULEX Executive Criminal Investigation Department on Jun 25, 2013. This suggests that the EU mission has been aware of the corruption allegations for some time, as Bamiah has claimed.

When BIRN contacted former suspect Nusret Cena and lawyers Mahmut Halimi and Azem Vllasi, all three denied the allegations that they were involved in bribery.

“I have never been to Albania with Asani and I have never met Florit outside the courtroom,” said Halimi.

It is not clear what action EULEX will take over the Baftiu family’s request for a retrial.

“[EULEX special prosecution chief Jonathan] Ratel told us not to believe the reports published in the media,” said Arben Baftiu.

When contacted by BIRN, Ratel said: “I do not consider I need to respond to these allegations.”

source

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