The prosecutor charges Beqa Beqaj with “contempt of court, attempted contempt of court and inciting others to contempt of court” because of his alleged contacts with a key prosecution witness in the case against Limaj and others

Beqa Beqaj in the courtroomBeqa Beqaj in the courtroom

At the trial of Beqa Beqaj that started today, the prosecutor will be trying to prove that the accused tried to influence a key prosecution witness in the case against Limaj and others, while the defense will counter with evidence that this was not a conscious and deliberate attempt to obstruct justice.

The key witness at the trial of Fatmir Limaj and other former KLA members is a Kosovo Albanian who narrowly escaped being shot to death after his detention in the KLA-run camp in Lapusnik. The witness’s identity is protected and he is known under the pseudonym B1. He has been living for some time in a foreign country. The prosecutor alleges that someone has tried to kill the witness twice and that he has received several death threats.

Beqa Beqaj grew up with the witness's family. He is also related to the accused Isak Musliu, the prosecutor says. According to the prosecution opening statement, Beqaj telephoned the key witness on behest of Limaj and Musliu in the months before the trail began last year, in order to persuade him to return to Kosovo and meet the defense counsel. Since the witness reported those calls to the OTP investigators, they taped one of the conversations. The prosecutor will use this tape to show that Beqaj urged the key defense witness to tell the investigators he had no connection with Limaj and Musliu.

Furthermore, the prosecutor notes, Beqaj's son tried to influence a potential prosecution witness, who is also protected and known as B2. He is one of the three prosecution witnesses to testify at this short trial.

“Bashkim Beqaj stopped me in a street in Stimlje last summer and said, “You’re the reason my uncle [Isak Musliu] is in The Hague”, B2 testified today, adding that the young man wanted to beat him. He said that the boy's father Beqa Beqaj was embarrassed because of this incident later.

A substantial part of this testimony took part in closed session in order to protect the witness’s identity. At the end of his examination, B2 addressed the judges with a plea to set free Beqa Beqaj, “who is a good man”, so that they could return to Kosovo together. The trial will continue on Wednesday with the testimony of witness B1.

Beqaj was arrested by the UN police in Kosovo last October, on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the Tribunal. At his initial appearance he pleaded not guilty to charges of contempt of court. In a brief statement at the hearing today he repeated that he was not guilty, adding that he considered the fact that he was in detention unjust, particularly because he was detained together with Serbs – he could not even speak his own language.

Several of the accused and their defense counsel have already been tried on charges of interference with witnesses before the ICTY. The first such case was the one of the accused Simic and defense counsel Avramovic in the Bosanski Samac case. They were both acquitted. Milan Vujin, Dusko Tadic’s lawyer, was found guilty of contempt of court and fined.