ICTY convicts former Kosovo cabinet minister of attempted witness intimidation

18/12/2008

The UN war crimes tribunal convicted a former Kosovo culture minister and his aide of contempt of court Wednesday for trying to intimidate a protected witness in the trial of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

(AP, Reuters, AKI, UNobserver, B92, JURIST Legal News and Research Services, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia - 17/12/08)

photo

The ICTY convicted former Kosovo Culture Minister Astrit Haraqija (left) and adviser Bajrush Morina of attempted witness intimidation. [Getty Images]

Former Kosovo Culture Minister Astrit Haraqija and his aide, Bajrush Morina, were convicted of contempt of court and received sentences of five and three months' imprisonment, respectively, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said on Wednesday (December 17th).

Both "were found guilty of having knowingly and willfully interfered with the administration of justice by interfering with a witness whose identity had been ordered protected" in the trial of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, the tribunal said in a statement.

An indictment filed by chief UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz in January alleged that in July 2007, Haraqija instructed Morina to travel to the country of residence of the protected witness, called Witness 2 in court documents, and persuade him not to testify. Morina, who was serving as political adviser to a deputy culture minister and as part-time editor at the Kosovo daily Bota Sot, knew Witness 2 and had "two lengthy meetings" with him. Police secretly taped both meetings, according to the indictment.

"The Trial Chamber found that the evidence established beyond reasonable doubt" that Haraqija "exercised his influence" over Morina, the ICTY statement said.

He accepted the minister's authority and followed his instructions to pressure Witness 2, telling him that others who had testified against Haradinaj had later been killed.

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The prosecutors also alleged that the former minister and a co-founder of the so-called Defence Committee for Ramush Haradinaj authorised Morina's trip and the culture ministry paid for it.

The judges noted that Morina had apologised to Witness 2, who did not succumb to the pressure and eventually testified against Haradinaj and two other former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders. The trial ended in early April.

Haradinaj and co-defendant Idriz Balaj were acquitted of all war crimes charges, while the third co-defendant, Lahi Brahimaj, received a six-year prison term.

The case against Haradinaj and the others is currently pending before the ICTY's Appeals Chamber.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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