30 March 2007

Serbian authorities investigate Kosovo Albanian for alleged war crimes

Associated Press, Friday, January 19, 2007 1:28 PM

BELGRADE, Serbia-Serbian war crimes prosecutors launched an investigation Friday into an ethnic Albanian man's alleged role in the 1998 killing of 25 Serb civilians during the Kosovo war.

Sinan Morina, who was arrested last month in neighboring Montenegro and extradited to Serbia, is being held "on suspicion of being responsible for the murder of 25 Serbs in 1998" in central Kosovo, said the prosecutors' office in Belgrade.

The group of Serb villagers, including an 11-member family, were missing for years until their bodies were found in 2005 in the rural Volujak cave and were identified through DNA tests.

Serbian prosecutors contend that Morina fought in the unit of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the independence-seeking ethnic Albanian rebel force, that rounded up the civilians and summarily executed them. Some of the victims were allegedly shot, others slaughtered and several were thrown off a cliff.

Kosovo has been under U.N. and NATO control since the 1998-99 conflict. Dozens of ethnic Albanian men, although indicted by Serbian prosecutors as alleged KLA fighters, remain out of reach for Serbian authorities.

Morina traveled to Montenegro last month, however, and was arrested during a car theft, prosecutors said. Montenegrin police, after finding Morina's name on a list of persons sought by Serbia, handed him over to the neighboring country.

The investigation in Belgrade comes at a sensitive time, with a U.N. envoy expected soon to present a proposal on Kosovo's future status, whether the province becomes an independent state or a self-governing part of Serbia.