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Key witness testifies in Kosovo organ trafficking case

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(PRISTINA) - A protected witness from Belarus Thursday wrapped up testimony in a major trial against an international criminal network of seven people accused of organ trafficking in Kosovo, a lawyer said.

"The session ended by examination of the witness by defence attorneys," lawyer Bajram Tmava told AFP.

Tmava, who represents one of the defendants, said the trial would resume on October 11, "when the prosecution announced the examination of another protected witness."

The witness from Belarus, identified only as A.K., was one of the donors in the so-called Medicus case, named after the Pristina clinic where the alleged crimes took place.

He testified for two days on how he had come to Kosovo to have his kidney removed for a transplant to a patient and received only part of the money promised.

The third day of the trial, run by an EU-majority jury, was closed to the public and media as the prosecutor Jonathan Ratel wanted to keep the identity of his vital witnesses, mainly those who sold organs, secret.

The defendants are charged with human trafficking, organised crime, unlawful exercise of medical activity and abuse of official position or authority, he added.

All seven have pleaded not guilty.

According to the indictment, the victims of organ trafficking were recruited from poor Eastern European and Central Asian countries.

They were promised about 15,000 euros ($19,440) for their organs, while recipients would pay up to 100,000 euros each.

"The testimony of A.K. was very convincing, almost irrefutable as he was not only a direct witness but also a victim," a court source told AFP.

The most prominent defendants, who according to the indictment formed "an organised criminal group", are Kosovo's former health secretary Ilir Rrecaj and Lutfi Dervishi, a prominent urologist.

Other suspects in the Medicus case include Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez, said to have performed organ removal surgeries, and Moshe Harel, an Israeli accused of having matched donors with recipients.

The Medicus clinic was raided and closed by police in 2008 after a probe was launched when a young Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport after donating a kidney to an Israeli man.

EU judges and prosecutors who run the trial are members of some 3,000-member EULEX mission that was launched as the biggest European civil operation ever just months after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

They have the power to step in and take on cases that the local judiciary is unable to handle because they are too sensitive.


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