In their closing remarks, the defense of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) veterans Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) in The Hague have argued against the accusations weighing on the defendants.
Gucati and Haradinaj were the president and deputy of the KLA veteran association. They have been in detention in The Hague since their arrests in late September 2020 over leaked KSC documents delivered to their offices by unknown persons. Some of the files then leaked to the media, alleging communication between the Specialist Prosecutors Office (SPO) and Serbian authorities that put into question the SPO’s integrity and impartiality.
They face charges of obstruction of justice, obstruction of officials, witness intimidation, breach of secrecy of pre-trial investigations.
The KSC-SPO were established by Kosovo parliament under pressure by the US and EU to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. All defendants to date are former members of KLA, Albanians of Kosovo, and there has been no Serbian charges yet.
They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals and are widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see the court as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.
In the third day of closing remarks on Wednesday, Gucati and Haradinaj’s lawyer Jonathan Elystan Rees argued against all charges. He maintained that the evidence presented by prosecutors failed to prove obstruction of justice charges. Prosecutors did not establish that the leaked documents did not contain compromising materials/communication between SPO and Serbian authorities, according to Rees.
The KSC-SPO has no jurisdiction outside Kosovo, thus their communications with Serbian authorities while investigating war veterans who fought against Serbia puts the SPO at risk of manipulation into the hands of the Serbian authorities, according to the lawyer. Rees stressed that they were not allowed access to the three leaked files and that prosecutors had failed to prove they contained no evidence of wrongdoing from the SPO communication with Serbian authorities.
The lawyer refuted charges of witness intimidation, arguing that prosecutors were unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt any intimidation of witnesses.
Rees further argued that no evidence was brought forward to prove that the KSC work was obstructed by the defendants actions, or that they had opposed searches, seizure of documents from their offices or resisted arrest.
The court is hearing concluding statements in the trial against Gucati and Haradinaj after both prosecutors and defense presented their cases and witnesses were heard.