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Trial of Albanian Students in Belgrade Continues

Five Albanian students of the Belgrade University (Petrit Berisha, Driton Berisha, Dritan Meca, Derguti Shkodran and Abdulah Islam) have been in pre trail confinement since the middle of April 1999, when they were arrested in Belgrade. They are charged with "terrorism and banding for hostile activity". During the trial which began in November 1999 all the accused and the interrogated witnesses completely denied the indictment that the students were involved in preparing sabotage and terrorist activity and collecting aid for the OVK (UCK) and serious doubt was thrown on the manner evidence was collected by the police. It seems possible that the symbols of the UCK, and the two hand grenades found during the search of their apartment were planted and that the so called list with the names of Albanians from Kosovo living in Belgrade and their military orders was a forgery. The prosecution attorney withdrew the proposal that self accusing statement given by Perit Berisha under duress while he was detained by the police, be put in the case file, as well as the statements of two witnesses for which the defense claims have been made in defiance to the articles of Law on Criminal Procedure and thus can not be used as evidence. The trial which was set for the 25 of January 2000 has been postponed and the report is given from the trial held on the 18 of February 2000.

I apologize in advance for being late in sending this report from the trail.

The Trial of Albanian Students Continues *

The first witness to be interrogated was Hisem Berisa, the father of Petrit and Driton. He confirmed that his sons were in Pec during the school holidays in 1998. They did not take part in the battles, did not have weapons in the house, he said that they "did not even posses a knife nor a rifle". They have also always had passports and the last time that Petrit renewed his was in January 99. It is interesting to know that Hisem was the deputy of the Federal Secretary for Transport and Communication in former Yugoslavia.

The next witness was Pren Mehmeti, the first neighbor of the Berisa family in Pec, who is a former worker of the KOS (the Military Counter Intelligence). He was in Pec in the beginning of July for a few days and saw Petrita a few times in the yard; he said that the two accused, judging by his experience, did not seem like people who would work against the government.

Both witnesses stressed that the Berisa family lived in harmony with their neighbors who were Serbs and Montenegrins and who were policemen and that there was never any problem.

It seems that for this (rigged) trial too, a group of very moderate and peaceful young men was chosen - so it seems that the category of the so called "honest Albanians" (the ones who are loyal to the Serbian government) is not acknowledged anymore.

The court hearing followed with a discussion on the procedure and proposals for new witnesses. The defense submitted as evidence Petrit's index and passport, as well as dedicated photographs from a wedding that was held in the neighborhood. Since the two announced witnesses for the prosecution did not turn up again, nor is the court aware of their whereabouts, after the session the board of judges decided to ask the police to find them and inform the court. If this does not happen, I am afraid the prosecutor will again insist on the reading of their statements given in absence. In the next hearing, the witnesses of the apartment search will testify. The board of judges will on the request of Ivan Jankovic, the defense attorney of Petrit Berisha, request to see the report kio 267/98, of the county court in Pec, from the trial of Agipa Ahmetia (which is still probably in progress in Leskovac) for "premeditated murder" of the same two policemen that the accused are charged with. The board of judges will decide later on court documents about a similar trial of two other Albanian students accused of membership in a terrorist organization Skumbimi which is being held in Belgrade.

When the dates that suited them were set, the next hearing will be on the 17 of March 2000 at 9.00 am.

Report by: Teodora Tabacki (Women in Black)

* Since I have been wrongly informed that the trial would begin at 10.00 o'clock instead of 9.00, the security did not let me in until the break, for the report on the first part of the hearing I acknowledge the help of Pedja Vujic.

Belgrade, March 17th, 2000

The continuation of the trial to a group of five Albanian students was today postponed for March 30, 2000.

The reason for this delay was, as the judge put it 'a minor accident' that happened to Husnia Bitici, one of the lawyers of defense. As one of the fellow lawyers, Ivan Jankovic, reported after talking to the family, yesterday afternoon, four disguised men broke into the Bitici's residence in Zemun (part of Belgrade) and heavily beat Husnia and his wife. They were immediately taken to ambulance, where he had an urgent operation, as his scull was broken. The wife is still in the intensive care. According to the children, the apartment was demolished, but nothing was stolen.

Before the next session, Bitici's client Isam Abdulahu will have to find another lawyer, which is a rather hard thing to do from prison. This case seems to be a yet another indication of increased repression to those with different opinion. Especially knowing that Bitici was a well-known activist for human rights and a lawyer of numerous political prisoners (including Flora Brovina).

Women in Black