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Tense Testimony In Haradinaj Trial Witness said he became confused under stress in courtroom.

By Rachel Irwin - International Justice - ICTY, TRI Issue 719, 25 Nov 11 The credibility of a prosecution witness in the retrial of former Kosovo prime m inister Ramush Haradinaj came under intense scrutiny this week as the defence ac cused him of fabricating his entire account. I appreciate that its hard to keep up with various versions, but thats because youre making them up, I suggest, defence lawyer Ben Emmerson said at one point during the cross-examination. The witness, known only by the number 81, responded angrily, You can reinvent the wheel for all I care, but we are in [a] court of law and you are [an] educated man and you shouldnt be expressing yourself in such a way. This witness did not testify during the original 2007 trial against Haradinaj, a former commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and his two co-defendants Lahi Brahimaj and Idriz Balaj, also ex-KLA members. In 2008, Haradinaj was acquitted of all 37 counts against him, which included th e murder and torture of Serb civilians as well as of suspected Albanian and Roma collaborators during the late Nineties conflict in Kosovo. Balaj was acquitted at the same time, while Brahimaj was found guilty of cruel t reatment and torture and sentenced to six years in prison. Prosecutors appealed against the acquittals, claiming that the trial had been inf ected by witness intimidation. As a result of this, they said, they were unable t o secure the testimony of two key witnesses. One of these, Shefqet Kabashi, was recently convicted of contempt and could face further charges for once again refusing to answer questions when he appeared in August as a witness in the retrial. The decision to hold a partial retrial stems from the July 2010 appeals judgemen t, which found that the trial judges had failed to appreciate the gravity of the threat of witness intimidation posed to the trials integrity and placed too much e mphasis on ensuring that the prosecution took no more than its pre-allotted time to present its case irrespective of the possibility of securing potentially impor tant testimony. They ruled that Haradinaj and Balaj should be retried on six counts of murder, c ruel treatment and torture, and Brahimaj retried on four of those counts. All of the current charges concern the KLA headquarters in Jablanica, which pros ecutors say was used to beat, torture and imprison those who were or perceived t o be Serbian collaborators, regardless of their ethnicity. Witness 81, a former KLA member, told prosecutors this week that he was sent to Jablanica on three occasions in 1998 to provide assistance there. When asked about the initial visit, the witness said he saw six or seven prisoners in the basement of the compound who were not Albanian. He added that Lahi Brahima j, otherwise known by the nickname Maxhup, said that two of the younger prisoners were Roma and another was a Serb.

After that, Witness 81 said that Brahimaj interrogated the young Serb in a separ ate room. Sometime later, the two Roma prisoners were allegedly brought outside into the yard, along with the Serb. The witness said he went out there as well a nd saw Brahimaj. Haradinaj and Balaj arrived a short time later, he said. Haradinaj started to interrogate the two gypsies, the witness said, adding that it is a known fact that he never liked the Roma. At that point, the witness began to have trouble responding to questions and his answers were often difficult to understand. Both prosecutors and judges repeate dly had to ask him to clarify what he was saying, and he requested frequent brea ks. After being asked once again to very speak clearly, Witness 81 said that Haradinaj also questioned the Serb and punched him a few times. He then said that Balaj ref erred to by the nickname Toger cut off the ear of one of the Roma prisoners. What happened after that? asked prosecuting lawyer Daniela Kravetz. Maxhup [Brahimaj] hit one and the other with the baseball bat I was very fearful a t that point, I didnt know what would happen, the witness answered. Toger [Balaj] s aid, This is how you treat enemies and spies. As for the Serb, the witness said that after Haradinaj punched him, others got in volved in the mistreatment. When pressed further, the witness said it was Toger/B alaj who beat the Serb, and that he also cut the Serbs ear off and stabbed him in the front part of his body. After that, did Toger do anything else to the Serb boy? asked Kravetz. I apologise, its been a long time and I cannot remember everything, the witness sai d. When asked what happened after the beatings stopped, the witness said that Harad inaj told the other soldiers to take the prisoners to Adem Jasharis house in Dreni ca. When somebody says that, it means kill them, the witness said, adding that Jashari was a legendary fighter who had been killed in combat. It means take them to the grave, the witness said. The witness said he was instructed to accompany local soldiers as they took the three prisoners to a nearby house, which he later learned was used as a hospital . He said that the three young men were in bad condition but were still alive when t hey entered the hospital. However, he said the prisoners were dead when they wer e brought out some time later. After that, the witness said that he, his colleagues and the local soldiers carr ied the three bodies on stretchers for close to two hours before arriving at a l ake where they dumped the corpses. The witness said that he never learned what happened to the other prisoners he s aw in the basement at Jablanica, and that he never saw Haradinaj after that day. Do you know who was in charge of the house with the basement where the persons we re held? asked Kravetz.

I do. It was [Brahimaj], the witness said. He was the host being of that village it only natural he should be the one in charge of that. During the tense cross-examination, confusion over the witnesss version of events only deepened. Emmerson noted that the witness was initially interviewed by the prosecution fro m November 23 to 26, 2010. He signed one statement on November 26 last year and a second, corrected version a few weeks later, on December 8. Emmerson further noted that in the first signed statement, the witness said it w as Brahimaj, not Balaj, who cut the ear off one of the Roma prisoners and hit th e Serb boy in [the] eye with baseball bat, after which he took out his eye an event never mentioned in the testimony this week. In the later corrections, the witness stated that Balaj who cut the ear off the Serb boy, not the Roma. Furthermore, his later statement said that it was Brahim aj who hit the Serb in the eye but Balaj who removed the eyeball from the socket . When asked about these changes, the witness said they were due to problems of int erpretation and the fact that he had been under stress when he gave his statement. You gave us a detailed account about this sequence of events [in court] you never mentioned anyones eye being taken out. Do you allege that one of the prisoners h ad an eye taken out? Emmerson asked. After pressing him for a direct answer, the witness said that the Serbs eye was t aken out by Brahimaj, referred to as Maxhup. This conflicted with what was in the final, corrected version of his statement, Emmerson said. The witness insisted it was Brahimaj who removed the eye. I said that [Brahimaj] hit [the boys eye], and I said that Toger cut the ear off, so this is where the misunderstanding could have arisen from, the witness said. Why didnt you mention the incident about the eye being taken out [in your testimon y this week]? asked Emmerson. As you can tell, Im under a great deal of stress. I was merely wanting to get it a ll over and done with as soon as possible, so I may have in the process. You may have what? asked Emmerson. Overlooked it, the witness said. So in the account youve given, you forgot about someone taking another human beings eye out? Emmerson asked. I told you clearly, that is the first time Im before a court of law, and Im afraid and have stage fright, so if I omitted some details, I apologise, the witness sai d. Emmerson then pressed the witness on other details where there were inconsistenc ies between the two earlier statements and his testimony in the courtroom. The witness repeatedly said that the inconsistencies and changes were due to fea

r for his familys safety. Why would you be scared to say that Toger cut off a Roma ear but not a Serb ear? E merson asked. Sir, if you were in my shoes now, you would feel the same way. Had you been there , you would understand, the witness said. Emmerson noted that according to his court testimony, both the Roma and the Serb had an ear cut off which again conflicted with both of his witness statements. What I suggest is that you realised you made a mistake and had gone off script, s o you had to add in the taking off of the ear of the Serb boy, Emmerson said. Does this really look like a script to you, like a theatre? the witness exclaimed. Absolutely, I am suggesting this is theatre, Emmerson countered. You are making thi s up. The reason you cant keep them straight is because they are all inventions. Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.