Organ trafficking case in Kosovo
Five men were convicted in Kosovo yesterday of involvement in an organ trafficking ring that performed at least 23 illegal kidney transplants at a clinic on the outskirts of the capital, under the noses of UN police and Nato personnel.
The trial of the men, all citizens of Kosovo, has taken on added significance in the region because it echoes a high-profile probe into alleged organ harvesting by guerrilla fighters during the 1998-99 war.
Would-be donors from Turkey and poor parts of the former Soviet Union were lured to the clinic in Pristina, called Medicus, on a promise of €10,000-€12,000.
Recipients, mainly Israelis, paid between €80,000 and €100,000 for the organs. Some donors never received any money.
“They were alone, did not speak the local language, were uncertain of what they were doing and had no one to protect their interests,” Judge Dean Pineles, part of an international panel of judges, told the court.
The scandal came to light in late 2008 when a Turkish man was stopped by police at Pristina airport, visibly in pain having had his kidney removed.
The case grew in notoriety when allegations surfaced that the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which waged an insurgency against Serbian forces in the late 1990s, had extracted and sold organs from captives, some of them Serbs, in neighbouring Albania.
A 2011 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty cited evidence that the two cases were linked and went to the highest echelons of power in the impoverished Balkan country.
Judge Pineles criticised Marty and the Council of Europe for refusing a prosecution request for him to testify, saying they had “quickly retreated behind immunity.”
The director of the Medicus clinic, urologist Lutfi Dervishi, was jailed for eight years for organised crime and trafficking in persons.
His son, Arban, was jailed for seven years and three months.
Anaesthetist Sokol Hajdini was sentenced to three years in prison and two other defendants received one-year suspended sentences. Two more were acquitted. They had all denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors said they would appeal.
Warrants have been issued for two more suspects: Turkish surgeon Yusuf Ercin Sonmez and alleged ringleader Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen. A special task force, appointed by the EU and led by US prosecutor Clint Williamson, is investigating Marty’s allegations against the KLA and is expected to issue a report in 2014