Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Thaci camp hits back at organ trafficking allegations

  • Thaci (l) and former EU foreign relations chief Javier Solana. The Marty report implies there was a cover up (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Kadri Veseli, the former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Service, has told EUobserver that the Dick Marty report on organ harvesting is an attempt to sabotage the peace process in the Western Balkans. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci plans to take Mr Marty to court.

"I'm convinced that the report as such, based on no facts, no proof and without the back-up of any real legal investigation ... has been made directly against the efforts of Kosovars and of our international partners to bring peace and tolerance to the Western Balkan nations after a long period of conflict and suffering," Mr Veseli told this website in his second only statement to media since the end of the war in 1999.

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"The report doesn't help the upcoming talks between Kosovo and Serbia," he added on the soon-to-come EU-mediated negotiations about problematic issues such as the governance of ethnic Serb enclaves in northern Kosovo.

Mr Veseli ran the Kosovo Intelligence Service (Shik) until 2008 after helping to create the special branch in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1990s.

He is one of six people named along with PM Thaci in Mr Marty's recent report for the Council of Europe as being responsible for organ harvesting from Serb prisoners and heroin smuggling in a criminal outfit which operated for years under the cover of the KLA.

"Dick Marty, as an experienced man in justice issues, has to understand the investigation process and to respect it by providing proof to the competent authorities, in our case to [EU police mission] Eulex," Mr Veseli went on. "But since he is trying to manipulate the facts by imposing his version of the truth, he has committed a crime. He has set out to judge not some names, but a whole nation."

"No one is above the law, not even him," he added.

Mr Veseli's remarks come as Mr Thaci in an interview with Reuters on Monday said he plans to sue the Swiss politician for defamation. "Dick Marty must prepare good lawyers, if he can find any to defend him, because under no circumstances will Dick Marty escape justice for this slander," he said.

Mr Thaci the same day told local news that he is ready to meet his Serb counterpart for the EU-led talks in an attempt to return to business as usual.

The Marty report says several Western intelligence services, including the British, German, Greek, Italian and US services, were well aware of the "dangerous" activities of the so-called Drenica Group, the criminal gang that Mr Veseli and Mr Thaci are alleged to have run.

The EU authorities on the ground in Kosovo are just as wary as EU institutions in Brussels of the implication that there was a cover up by Western powers.

Asked by EUobserver if anybody in Eulex had ever heard of the allegations before, the police mission's spokeswoman Kristiina Herodes said: "Eulex takes allegations of war crimes and organized crime very seriously. However, the prosecutor bases their investigation on evidence and if any one has concrete evidence to support the allegations put forward in the report, they should come forward with those to the appropriate authorities."

She said an earlier Eulex probe into the so-called Yellow House case has: "to date ... found no evidence or intelligence that would lead us to believe that 'organ harvesting' took place at this location." She added: "As to whether other sorts of criminal activities have taken place at this location we have no evidence at this point."

The Yellow House is a building near the town of Burrel in Albania where the KLA carried out organ operations according to a book by former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte.

Kai Mueller-Berner, the spokesman for the International Civilian Office in Kosovo, a body which overlooks Pristina's compliance with the so-called Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, an international agreement put together by Finnish diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, was even more tight-lipped.

"We do not intend to speculate on any potential consequences of the [Marty] report. It contains serious allegations and those should be handled with due diligence by the relevant authorities," he said.

Speaking on an anonymous basis, a senior contact in the EU institutions said Brussels was genuinely surprised by Mr Marty's findings and that substantial harm has been done to Mr Thaci's reputation.

"You have this report. You have pictures of him [Mr Thaci] on the BBC dressed like a guerrillero. He is marked for ever with a cross as a kind of bandit no matter what happens next," the source said. "Dick Marty is emerging as a superstar. He also wrote the CIA renditions report [in 2007] which people tried to dismiss in the beginning but which had a real impact in the end. This kind of work shows the Council of Europe is actually good for something."

The story was amended at 7pm Brussels time on 21 December 2010 to more accurately describe the mandate of the ICO

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Four years after EU police came to Kosovo it has not indicted any top suspects on organised crime, posing questions about its work and the integrity of Kosovo's leaders.

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Turkey’s EU quarrel escalated on all fronts over the weekend, amid fresh “Nazi” and “terrorism” jibes. “Not all Turks are little Erdogans,” Juncker said.

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