THE HAGUE | 18.05.2005.

LIMAJ DENIES ANY CONNECTION WITH LAPUSNIK PRISON

On the second day of testimony in his own defense, Fatmir Limaj responded to direct accusations regarding the Lapusnik prison and the shooting of prisoners in the Berisa mountains on 26 July 1998.

“No, that is absurd. It is impossible even to imagine something like that,” Fatmir Limaj said today when asked by his defense counsel Michael Mansfield if he had been involved in organizing the prison in Lapusnik in June or July 1998. Limaj is the first defendant in the trial of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) charged with detaining, ill-treating and murdering Serbian and Albanian civilians in Lapusnik in the summer of 1998.

On the second day of testimony in his own defense, Limaj did not contest allegations that he had visited Lapusnik possibly about twenty times during those two months in 1998. On an aerial photograph of that area he marked several houses he had visited then, and he subsequently recollected that “a couple of times (he) had meals with some soldiers in the kitchen” which he also marked on the photo. The kitchen was situated within the perimeter of the KLA base, and according to the indictment, the prison was also there. A number of prosecution witnesses, including former inmates of the Lapusnik prison, claimed they had seen Limaj in the base and in the rooms where abducted civilians were held. The accused, however, denied this.

Limaj also denied the main charge leveled against him by the prosecutor, that after Serbian forces captured Lapusnik on 26 July 1998 he met up with KLA troops as they were escorting a column of about 20 evacuated prisoners in the Berisa mountains. According to the indictment, Limaj briefly spoke to the accused Haradin Bala, who was escorting the column, gave him some papers and left there a soldier from his escort. After he left, Bala read out the names of ten prisoners, gave them a piece of paper bearing Limaj’s signature and told them that they were free. After that, according to the indictment and the testimony of one of the survivors, Bala and the soldier left by Limaj shot and killed the remaining ten or so Kosovo Albanian prisoners, who were accused of collaboration with the Serbs.

Responding to a direct question from his defense counsel, Fatmir Limaj categorically said today that he was not in the Berisa mountains on 26 July 1998 because the previous day he had had certain health problems and had passed out, so he could not participate in the battle for Lapusnik.

The testimony of Fatmir Limaj continues tomorrow.