Kosovo PM denies "mafia-style" crime allegations
Source: reuters // Reuters
* Report accuses Kosovo PM of heading mafia-style group
* Kosovo PM says report full of lies, says to seek truth
* Next step should be formal investigation, author says
(Adds Del Ponte comment)
By Fatos Bytyci
PRISTINA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci rejected a European report accusing him of heading a mafia-style organisation and said on Thursday he would use all political and legal means to bring the truth to light.
Calling a report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty slanderous and full of lies, Thaci called on Marty to present the facts if he had any. The report accused him of heading a crime ring involved in drug, gun and organ trafficking.
"I will use my political and legal capacities to bring the truth to light," Thaci, in his first remarks since the report was made public two days ago, told a news conference in Pristina. "These acts are done to damage the image of Kosovo."
"As a prime minister of the republic of Kosovo, as a citizen and as a parent, I am insulted by the baseless accusations of Dick Marty against me, my comrades, the KLA (wartime guerrilla army), against the state of Kosovo and my people."
Swiss senator Marty said the report should spur a formal investigation and set in motion a "dynamic of truth". He acknowledged there was a scarcity of physical evidence but said it would be the task of judicial investigators to unearth this.
"I think we have delivered enough material to justify finally an investigation which goes deeper, is more serious and independent and, above all, creates the conditions for witnesses to speak," Marty told a news conference in Paris.
This report "can set in motion a dynamic of truth and that could really change things... We cannot continue with these suspicions", he said after a meeting at the Council of Europe office in Paris.
Marty's report accuses Thaci of being the boss of an organised crime ring during the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla war against Serbia in the late 1990s that assassinated opponents, trafficked in drugs and organs harvested from murdered Serbs and committed other crimes.
During that fight, the bloody wave of ethnic cleansing by Serbian troops took centre stage, with 10,000 ethnic Albanians losing their lives. Marty acknowledged that, but quotes witnesses as saying the Albanians were no saints.
He also criticised international authorities for failing to act despite having been aware of the alleged misdeeds, which he said were widely known among locals in Kosovo but never discussed in public due to the fear of reprisals.
"We soon discovered that these facts were already known by the intelligence services of several countries ... and many people who in private said, 'Yes we know, but for political reasons ... we have made the choice to stay quiet'," he said.
Marty declined to specify the number of victims from alleged misdeeds of the UCK ethnic militia and said that organs harvested were shipped "abroad, to people paying the highest price", but would not identify any country as a destination for trafficked organs.
His two-year investigation was mandated by the Council of Europe after revelations by Carla del Ponte in her book "The Hunt" about possible organ trafficking. Del Ponte, formerly the U.N.'s chief war crimes prosecutor in The Hague, said she had not been allowed to investigate alleged KLA crimes to the end.
Del Ponte, now serving as Swiss ambassador in Argentina, told the Swiss news agency ATS that Marty's report "confirms what I wrote in my book and more. It is very serious".
"The next step is an investigation to establish the facts. But it must be done by an institution up to the task," she said, adding that when she first made her allegations her efforts to excavate for bodies had been blocked by Albania.
Marty's report was adopted by the judiciary and human rights commission of the Council of Europe, a 47-member body seeking to develop democratic principles, on Thursday.
Kosovo's EU justice mission said on Wednesday it would examine the conclusions of the draft report, as opposition politicians rallied behind Thaci.
Serbia, Kosovo's ex-ruler which was expected to hold talks with Kosovo after general elections that Thaci's party won, vowed to press for the claims to be investigated.
"We won't allow this to be swept under the carpet," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told reporters in Belgrade.
(Additional reporting by Nicholas Vinocur in Paris and Adam Tanner in Belgrade; Editing by Michael Roddy)
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