Bedri Krasniqi Convicted to 27 Years in Prison for Murder of Kosovo Police Officers

A mixed trial chamber of the Kosovo Supreme Court, presided by international judge Gerrit-Marc Sprenger, confirmed on January 1st 2010 the first instance judgement rendered by the Peć/Pejë District Court and sentenced Bedri Krasniqi to 27 years of imprisonment for the murder of two and attempted murder of one member of the Kosovo Police Service.

The Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo thinks that the sentence is adequate considering the gravity of the crime since persons who were attacked were on duty, protecting law and order, and investigating a crime. Namely, the police officers were investigating the politically-motivated murder of Tahir Zemaj, his son and one of his cousins. The attack also endangered the lives of other people in traffic, who were on this road at the time of the offence. Since Krasniqi has been on the run since November 2008, when he escaped from the Dubrava prison, where he was being kept in detention until the judgement became final, justice and the victims will be satisfied only when the defendant is arrested and sent to serve his sentence and when the other perpetrators that participated in this attack are identified and punished.

On the basis of the evidence presented, the court established that on November 24th 2003, on the Dečani/Deçane – Peć/Pejë road, Krasniqi in complicity with other unidentified perpetrators, fired automatic firearms and killed two police officers. Krasniqi and others attacked head on the car occupied by police officer Sebahate Tolaj, who was the driver, and police officers Isuf Haklaj and Hysen Lataj. In this attack, Sabahate Tolaj and Isuf Haklaj were wounded and died on November 24th and 28th 2003. Hysen Lataj survived. The indictment also charged the defendant with the commission of the criminal acts of causing general danger and illegal use of weapons, but the second instance court concluded that the criminal acts of murder and attempted murder encompassed the acts of causing general danger, while the illegal use of weapons was prequalified into the act of possession of illegal weapons for which he was also sentenced.

The first instance trial lasted from May 15th 2007 until September 19th 2007 when a sentencing judgement was rendered. A total of 10 days of trial were held in the course of the main hearing, during which 14 prosecution witnesses were examined, one of whom was a protected witness and five were defence witnesses. Statements given by six witnesses during the investigation were tendered into evidence and they were not directly examined. The police officer, who survived the attack, was not examined as a victim-witness, even though his examination was proposed in the indictment. The defendant denied that he participated in the attack on the police vehicle, but he admitted that he possessed illegal weapons, which were confiscated from him when he was arrested. The defendant has the right to appeal pursuant to Article 430 Paragraph 1 Item 1 of the Kosovo Criminal Procedure Code, which stipulates that appeal against a second instance judgement is allowed when the court of the second instance rendered a long prison sentence.

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