Ahmet Ukaj claims the killers of Sanije Balaj forced him to help them bury her body. The prosecution witness greeted the three accused at the end of his testimony, saying he ‘likes them very much’

Ahmet Ukaj, witness in the Haradinaj trialAhmet Ukaj, witness in the Haradinaj trial

At the trial of Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj, most of the evidence the prosecution has called concerned the murder of Sanije Balaj, an Albanian woman from Kosovo. Cuf Krasniqi, former KLA member, was one of the witnesses who testified about that. He interviewed Sanije Balaj just before her death in the village of Barane on 12 August 1998, he said. She was then taken away under escort of two KLA members, Idriz Gashi a.k.a Galani and Avni Krasniqi. Gashi is on trial for this crime in Pristina while Krasniqi has recently been arrested on contempt of court charges for failing to comply with the order to testify before the Tribunal. He is currently in the Tribunal’s Detention Unit.

Ahmet Ukaj, former KLA member, complied with the order to testify issued by the prosecution and finished the story of the killing of Sanije Balaj. According to his evidence, one day in August he saw a young woman being brought to the barracks by several soldiers. Fifteen minutes later, she was taken away. After that, as he described in his statement to the OTP investigators, he returned to his home village of Vranovac. There he heard that Sanije Balaj was taken in the direction of Glodjane and killed in the wood near the road.

Ukaj and his brother headed for this forest that evening, he said. They were stopped by Gashi and Krasniqi. They ordered them to help them bury Sanije Balaj’s body at gunpoint. As they were digging the grave, the witness said, Gashi admitted he had killed Sanije because she had a notebook with telephone numbers of some police officers and other Serbs.

The prosecution claims that the KLA unit from Barane – Gashi and Krasniqi were in that unit – was under the command of Ramush Haradinaj. According to the evidence of several prosecution witnesses, Haradinaj held a speech on 20 July 1998 in this village in the make-shift barracks at the oath-taking ceremony for the new recruits. Shaban Balaj, Sanije’s brother, denied Haradinaj’s responsibility in his testimony. Although he didn’t have any first-hand information, he claimed that his sister had been killed by ‘self-proclaimed commanders under no one’s control’. He was sure Haradinaj would not allow such a crime to happen.

Ahmet Ukaj expressed his liking for Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj, as had many other prosecution witnesses who had testified before him. He greeted the three accused before the Trial Chamber, saying he ‘likes them very much’.