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Albanian Court Approves Ex-kla Guerrilla’s Extradition to the Hague

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At a hearing on Tuesday, the Tirana Court ruled that Dritan Goxhaj, a former Kosovo Liberation Army fighter from Albania, can be extradited to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers war crimes court in The Hague, a court official told BIRN.

Goxhaj was arrested in July for alleged “intimidation during criminal proceedings” and “obstructing officials in the performance of official duties”.

He has the right to appeal the Tirana Court decision within ten days. His lawyer could not be reached by BIRN on Tuesday.

His lawyer told BIRN in August that Goxhaj had been charged over an article he wrote for a media outlet exposing the names of some of the potential protected witnesses in a war crimes trial of another ex-KLA guerrilla in The Hague

Goxhaj was arrested in Tirana on an arrest warrant issued by the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which is trying ex-guerrillas for crimes committed during and just after the 1998-99 war.

This is the first case at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in which an Albanian from Albania has been arrested.

Witness protection has been a key concern for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers from the outset, and was one of the key reasons why the war crimes court was established outside Kosovo and staffed by internationals, although it is part of Kosovo’s justice system.

Previous trials of KLA ex-guerrillas both inside Kosovo and at the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia have been marred by the intimidation of witnesses. In some cases, even after they were relocated, they were approached by relatives or others trying to convince them to withdraw their initial testimonies.

The former leader and deputy leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans’ Organisation, Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj, have already been jailed for obstructing justice and intimidating witnesses by the Specialist Chambers.

They were prosecuted after they received batches of legal documents leaked from the Specialist Chambers which contained confidential information about protected witnesses, including names and personal information, then held press conferences to urge media to publish extracts from the leaked files.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers are trying former KLA guerrillas for crimes including murder, torture and illegal detentions.

Among those already on trial are former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli, who were senior KLA figures during wartime. Both have pleaded not guilty to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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