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The Information Service of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Gracanica, August 22, 2000

  • Bishop Artemije receives new British commander, Brigadier General Robert Fry
  • Attackers who attempted to murder Vitina priest and passengers released from custody
  • BISHOP ARTEMIJE RECEIVES NEW BRITISH COMMANDER, BRIGADIER GENERAL ROBERT FRY

    Today in Gracanica Monastery Episcope Artemije and Dr. Rada Trajkovic received the new British commander of Multinational Brigade Center, Brigadier General Robert Fry. Brigadier Fry replaced Brigadier Richard Shirreff, who over the course of the last few months exerted great efforts to assist the Serb community in the area of central Kosovo. The new British commander assured the representatives of the SNC that Multinational Brigade Center would continue with the implementation of Operation Trojan with the goal of improving the security and economic situation for endangered communities, especially the Serb people.

    “Much still needs to be done in order for improvements in the field to be readily seen even though we have taken the first encouraging steps,” stated Bishop Artemije. Dr. Rada Trajkovic placed the greatest emphasis on the necessity of promoting projects for Serb returns and the renovation of their houses while Bishop Artemije stressed the urgent need to improve security in the village of Crkvena Vodica in which a terrorist attack against Serb children occurred days ago.

    Accompanying Brigadier Fry were also representatives of the British office in Pristina who are actively working on the project of an independent Serb radio station in Caglavica.

    ATTACKERS WHO ATTEMPTED TO MURDER VITINA PRIEST AND PASSENGERS RELEASED FROM CUSTODY

    More than a month ago, on July 12, 2000, on the road between the villages of Klokot and Vitina, not far from Gnjilane, three Albanians with firearms attacked the vehicle of the Orthodox priest from Vitina, Father Dragan Kojic, and opened fire on the priest’s vehicle, wounding Father Dragan, theology student Zvonko Kostic and Branko Palocevic. Fortunately, no one was lethally injured and the three wounded Serbs, thanks to the quick action of American KFOR, were transferred to the U.S. military base Bondsteel near Urosevac, where they underwent surgery and were permitted to return their homes after several days of recuperation. Thanks to the extremely efficient operation of the UNMIK international police, the three attackers were arrested only 15 minutes after carrying out this terrorist attack and taken to the prison at Bondsteel. The wounded Serbs positively identified the Albanians as well-known extremists from the Vitina area. According to testimony by a senior representativ! e of American KFOR who asked to remain anonymous, the arrested men were earlier known to have been members of Thaci’s military police in the KLA.

    According to the statement of Father Dragan Kojic, on August 14 the UN police came to his house in Vitina and asked him to come immediately to the municipal court in Gnjilane. Father Dragan received no written notification beforehand. Unable to go to the court at that very moment, Father Dragan asked that next time he be advised in writing as he wished to appear in court regarding this case. Zvonko Kostic and Branko Palocevic also received no written notification nor were they asked to come to court at all. In the meanwhile, a trial was held for two of the three arrested Albanians without any testimony from the Serbs and the accused Sedat Fejz and Resat Emurlahu were released by decision of the municipal court judge in Gnjilane, an Albanian, on August 20. Today both men are freely walking around in Vitina.

    This behavior, first and foremost on the part of the representative of the international mission and the UNMIK police, is deserving of the greatest criticism and condemnation as the court process was not held in a manner proscribed by law; the Serbs who were attacked and who immediately recognized the attackers were not enabled to testify in a timely manner; and the arrested men were released from custody without the testimony of the key witnesses. This is yet another example of the farcical justice system in Kosovo which is functioning under international supervision and within the framework of which Albanian judges are being permitted to release criminals.

    A similar case occurred recently with respect to accused A. Zeciri, who was suspected of murdering a person of Serb nationality in the village of Cernica near Gnjilane and who was subsequently released “due to lack of evidence”. In the meanwhile, Dr. Kouchner has personally requested that the Zeciri case be retried as there are clear indications that the court process was unjustly held. Numerous Western and Albanian human rights organizations spoke up on behalf of Zeciri while no one has spoken up on behalf of the Serbs of Cernica who are tolerating continual terror by local Albanian extremists.

    With regard to this case, the SNC will also most decisively seek from UNMIK that the case against the attackers of Father Dragan Kojic and his passengers be retried with prior obtaining of testimony from the wounded Serbs.

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