Gjergj Dedaj in court on November 6, 2023. Photo: Kosovo Specialist Chambers/Livestream.

Witness Admits Giving ‘Exaggerated’ Evidence Against Kosovo Guerrillas

A former Kosovo ambassador told the trial of ex-President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants that he gave “exaggerated” testimony about the alleged beating of political opponents by Kosovo Liberation Army fighters in 1998.

Over three days of hearings, prosecution witness Gjergj Dedaj, Kosovo’s former ambassador to North Macedonia, told the Kosovo Specialist Chambers war crimes court in The Hague that he “exaggerated” his previous testimony to investigators in the case of former President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants.

“I am telling the truth now, these [previous statements]… do not count,” Dedaj told the court on Wednesday, responding to the judge’s questions about whether he lied in statements given to EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX investigators in 2014.

According to the indictment, Thaci and co-defendant Rexhep Selimi, together with others, “participated in and led the arrest, detention, and intimidation of 13 members of a parliamentary delegation who were on a humanitarian visit to Qirez/Cirez” in Kosovo in September 1998.

Thaci and his co-defendants were high-ranking Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA figures during the war. The Kosovo MPs in the delegation were political opponents of the KLA.

After being detained by KLA fighters, members of the delegation were then sent to Baice/Banjica and “beaten and interrogated”, the indictment claims.

Dedaj was the head of the delegation. On Monday, he told the court that “this was not an interrogation [by Thaci], I would like you to rectify this. These were conversations, these were normal conversations between leaders.”

Dedaj also told the court on Monday that he had “exaggerated” his previous testimony to EULEX investigators about the incident.

The indictment alleges that the delegation members were “badly beaten, and had visible injuries”.

Going back on the testimony he gave to EULEX in 2014, Dedaj repeated throughout his three days in court in The Hague that he was “not beaten”.

On Tuesday, during questioning by Thaci’s lawyer Luka Misetic, the court was shown video footage of a press conference held by Dedaj and others from the delegation in Pristina. The prosecution has claimed that the video showed Dedaj’s hand was bruised from the beating.

Misetic claimed however that dark area on Dedaj’s hand was shadow and not the result of violence.

The court was told by the prosecution and defence that Dedaj had provided a photo of his injuries to EULEX, as well as a list of the people involved in assaulting him.

In his previous testimony to EULEX, Dedaj claimed that the injuries “were very serious, my entire arm became black to the fingernails, when the weather changes my arm hurts from my shoulder to my fingernails and this is a permanent injury I got”.

However, Dedaj told the Hague court that he “did not show any photograph” and that he had fallen several times. “If it rained, you want to blame the KLA for that too,” he said.

“Nobody beat me and nobody can beat me,” he also told the court on Wednesday.

Thaci and Selimi, along with co-defendants Kadri Veseli and Jakup Krasniqi are all former senior KLA figures during wartime who later became senior politicians.

They are accused of bearing individual and command responsibility for crimes including 102 murders that were mainly committed against prisoners held at KLA detention facilities in Kosovo and neighbouring Albania.

08/11/2023 - 20:13

08 November 2023 - 20:13

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