In his evidence at the trial of Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj, a former member of the Serbian State Security Service from Pristina at first denied that the Serb police used blackmail to recruit informers from the KLA. As the witness explained, they were ’given a choice’ to cooperate or to risk criminal prosecution or disclosure of details from their private life. Asked to describe the approach in a word, the witness said that he couldn’t think of another term but blackmail

Bislim Zyrapi, witness at the Haradinaj, Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj trialBislim Zyrapi, witness at the Haradinaj, Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj trial

Former member of the Serbian State Security Service (SDB) Zoran Stijovic continued his evidence at the trial of Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj. Stijovic, who worked in the Pristina department of the SDB testified that the police had obtained information that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had lists of Albanians who were collaborating with the Serb authorities and who were slated for execution. Yesterday Stijovic said that according to the police intelligence, the Albanian ‘collaborators’ were killed and Serb police officers and civilians were attacked by the KLA members from Jablanica, who were under Lahi Brahimaj’s command.

In the cross-examination, the defense teams noted that the police collected the information illegally through coercion of informers and Albanian detainees who were abused and blackmailed. The defense claims that the information collected in that manner was not reliable. Haradinaj’s defense counsel Ben Emmerson first showed a statement of a man by the name of Naser Kalimashi to the Serb police from September 1998. According to the statement, 17 or 20 persons were then detained in Jablanica and Lahi Brahimaj forced them to swim in a basement filled with water and motor oil. Emerson then showed a statement Kalimashi gave to the OTP investigators in 2006, in which he described how he was held captive for days in the Djakovica police station, and then beaten and forced to sign a statement where ‘not even a single word is true’. Stijovic replied that it wouldn’t be a proper way to take a statement, adding that he didn’t know if that was the case.

Brahimaj’s defense counsel Richard Harvey put it to the witness that the police used blackmail to obtain statements from Albanian informers. In his previous evidence at the trial of the former KLA commanders Stijovic himself used the term ‘blackmail’. Today Stijovic said that he would prefer to use another word: ‘choice’. For instance, potential informers could choose to cooperate with the police and to have the charges against them for an offence dropped. Sometimes the ‘choice’ stemmed from a threat to divulge information about the informer’s private life, such as marital infidelity, Stijovic explained.

Presiding judge Bakone Moloto observed that Stijovic’s explanation was too long and asked him to describe the police approach in one word. ‘Blackmail. I cannot think of any other word’, the witness replied.

After Zoran Stijovic completed his evidence, the prosecutor called former chief of the KLA Main Staff Bislim Zyrapi to the witness stand. In 2007, Zyrapi gave evidence at the first trial of Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj. Today the transcript of Zyrapi’s previous evidence and his two statements to the OTP investigators were admitted into evidence. Today Zyrapi said that in the summer of 1998 Ramush Haradinaj was the commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone. The Rapid Reaction Force from Rznic, with Idriz Balaj as its commander, was also under Haradinaj’s command. As the prosecution alleges, the prison camp in Jablanica was also located in the Dukagjin Operational Zone. Bislim Zyrapi continues his evidence tomorrow.