March 19th 2012 07:28:05 PM
As we know, while the KLA was being formed and trained by Germany and British SAS in preparation for a U.S.-led attack on Yugoslavia for some reason, for years its Albanian founders and other associated criminals were living in Switzerland, from which they directed their international crime syndicate before we could set up their Kosovo headquarters.
And so every so often, Switzerland — which has intimate familiarity with the nature of empowered Albanians and therefore has expressed some buyer’s remorse over an independent Kosovo — comes up in Albanian-related news. Such as in the past two months:
A report says two Kosovo politicians closely linked to the government and who are accused of involvement in alleged organ trafficking have Swiss residency permits.
The SonntagsZeitung newspaper said the Swiss Federal Migration Office has confirmed that both Azem Syla and Kadri Veseli have C permits, which they are only entitled to if their main residences are in Switzerland.
In mid-December, Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty issued a report into criminal activities involving members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), many of whom are now in the Kosovo government.
Syla and Veseli held top posts in the KLA and the political party that succeeded it and forms the current government, the Democratic Party of Kosova.
Both men are suspected of involvement in trafficking in human organs and murder. The newspaper says the German secret service listed them in 2005 as important figures in organised crime in Kosovo.
The SonntagsZeitung added that neither Syla, who has been reelected to the Kosovo parliament, nor Veseli hide the fact that they live in Kosovo. […]
The upshot, from this month:
Court expels Kosovan politician (March 1)
A Swiss court has issued an expulsion order against a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who it said should never have received a residency permit.
Azem Syla, a Kosovan parliamentarian and former defence minister, was granted asylum in Switzerland in 1994 and received a C permit in 1999.
But the Administrative Court of Solothurn ruled that as defence minister Syla should never have left his country during a time of war. It ordered he leave Switzerland by May 15.
The court said Syla had violated a series of laws in Switzerland, including serious abuse of the social security system, according to the written judgment obtained by the Swiss News Agency.
Unable to work because of a physical condition, Syla received some SFr425,000 ($469,000) in social security payments between 2002 and 2011. The payments were stopped last year when authorities became aware of his position as a Kosovan parliamentarian.
Syla has also been accused of trafficking in human organs and murder during his time with the KLA. He is additionally accused of having ordered the execution of his rivals at the end of the war in 1999.
Now, if Syla’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was featured in the 1999 article below by Chris Hedges in The New York Times — an article that emphasizes, as usual to no effect in policy, public outrage or media follow-up — this very execution that the Swiss media are understated-ly reminding us of.
I easily found the old article below in my files, because I’d tagged the subject line “Hedges: Thaci Executes his Rivals; KLA to be Modeled on the National Guard.”
Leaders of Kosovo Rebels Tied to Deadly Power Play
By CHRIS HEDGES, June 25, 1999
The senior commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which signed a disarmament agreement with NATO, carried out assassinations, arrests and purges within their ranks to thwart potential rivals, say current and former commanders in the rebel army and some Western diplomats.
The campaign, in which as many as half a dozen top rebel commanders were shot dead, was directed by [now prime minister] Hashim Thaci and two of his lieutenants, Azem Syla and Xhavit Haliti, these officials said. Mr. Thaci denied through a spokesman that he had been responsible for any such killings.
Although the United States has long been wary of the Kosovo Liberation Army….after the war, the United States and other NATO powers have effectively made Mr. Thaci and the rebel force partners in rebuilding Kosovo. The agreement NATO signed with Mr. Thaci, for example, envisions turning the rebel group into a civilian police force and leaves open the possibility that the Kosovo Liberation Army could become a provisional army modeled on the United States National Guard.
While none of the rebel officials interviewed saw Mr. Thaci or his aides execute anyone, they recounted — and in some cases said they had witnessed — incidents in which Mr. Thaci’s rivals had been killed shortly after he or one of his aides had threatened them with death.
Remembering the beginning of fighting more than a year ago, Rifat Haxhijaj, 30, a former lieutenant in the Yugoslav Army who left the rebel movement last September and now lives in Switzerland, said: ‘’When the war started, everyone wanted to be the chief. For the leadership this was never just a war against Serbs — it was also a struggle for power.'’
The charges of assassinations and purges were made in interviews with about a dozen former and current Kosovo Liberation Army officials, two of whom said they had witnessed executions of Mr. Thaci’s rivals; a former senior diplomat for the Albanian Government; a former police official in the Albanian Government who worked with the rebel group, and several Western diplomats.
The Western diplomat in the Balkans said, however, that Mr. Thaci’s ruthless tactics are legendary in the region.
‘’Thaci has a reputation for being pretty tough,'’ the diplomat continued. ‘’Haliti and Syla are not known for their sweet tempers. This is a rough neighborhood, and intimidation and assassinations happen.'’
Former and current rebel officials also charge that a campaign of assassinations was carried out in close cooperation with the Albanian Government, which often placed agents from the Albanian secret police at the disposal of the rebel commanders.
The Western diplomat in the Balkans said he knew of at least two Albanian secret police officers who were fighting with the guerrillas. ‘’The two officers are brigade or battalion commanders, and they’ve been in the field fighting,'’ the diplomat said. ‘’They’re volunteers from Albania.'’
Albania has long waged a campaign to unite with Kosovo, a Serbian province where Albanians are in the majority. Such unification was briefly achieved during Fascist occupation in World War II and was held out as a goal by radical groups financed and backed by Tirana in the later part of the century.
Indeed, the close relationship between Mr. Thaci and the Tirana Government, which has a reputation for corruption and has been linked by Western diplomats to drug trafficking, is one of the factors that disillusioned many former fighters who were interviewed in Germany, Switzerland and Albania. The fighters said they had fought to create a more Western, democratic state, free from Albanian influence and control.
Two former rebel leaders and a former Albanian police official, interviewed in Tirana, said that Mr. Haliti, who is officially Mr. Thaci’s ambassador to Albania, was working in Kosovo with 10 secret police agents from Albania to form an internal security network that would be used to silence dissenters in Kosovo.
Mr. Thaci, 30, has named a government, with himself as prime minister, and denounced Ibrahim Rugova, who for nearly a decade was the self-styled president of Kosovo and ran a successful campaign of nonviolent protest after the Serbs stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989.
Mr. Thaci has long had ties to radical groups that called for the violent overthrow of the Government in Belgrade. He joined a clandestine organization known as the Kosovo Popular Movement that existed on the fringes of Pristina University.
The group was financed and backed by the Stalinist dictator of Albania, Enver Hoxha, until his death in 1985. Its members, including Mr. Syla, whom Mr. Thaci appointed his defense minister, and Mr. Haliti, have become the core of the leadership that dominates the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Violence has long swirled around Mr. Thaci, whose nom de guerre was Snake. In June 1997, in an incident that many in the underground guerrilla movement found ominous, a Kosovo Albanian reporter who had close links with the movement was found dead in his apartment in Tirana, his face disfigured by repeated stabbings with a screwdriver and the jagged edge of a broken bottle.
The reporter, Ali Uka, was supportive of the rebel movement, but also independent enough to criticize it. At the time of his death he was sharing his apartment with Mr. Thaci.
Mr. Thaci inspired fear and respect in his home base of the central Drenica region in Kosovo as he organized armed units and carried out ambushes against Serbian policemen…
There were persistent reports at the time that he personally carried out executions of Kosovo Albanians whom he had branded as traitors or collaborators, but no witnesses have surfaced.
Mr. Thaci was involved, along with Mr. Haliti, in arms smuggling from Switzerland in the years before the 1998 uprising, say current and former senior rebel commanders.
Mr. Thaci and Mr. Haliti both have wives and children in Switzerland, although Mr. Haliti has formed a new family in Tirana, where he has a large villa and close links with senior Government leaders, say former and current rebel officials in Albania.
When the uprising began, and money and volunteers flooded into Albania from the 700,000 Kosovo Albanians living in Europe, Mr. Thaci and Mr. Haliti found themselves in charge of thousands of fighters and tens of millions of dollars.
In April 1998, a rebel commander who transported many of the weapons, Ilir Konushevci, accused Mr. Haliti of profiting from arms transactions, according to commanders present at the heated meeting. A few days later, he was ambushed and killed on the road outside Tropoja in northern Albania.
The commander had charged that Mr. Haliti was buying boxes of grenades at $2 apiece and charging the movement $7 for each grenade. The killing, although it took place in a rebel-controlled region in northern Albania, was blamed on the Serbs.
Other killings of rebel commanders and political rivals ascribed to Mr. Thaci are attributed to a struggle to consolidate control and eliminate potential challengers.
‘’Cadavers have never been an obstacle to Thaci’s career,'’ said Bujar Bukoshi, the prime minister in exile in Mr. Rugova’s administration, which is often at odds with the rebel force. One Western diplomat, citing intelligence reports, said that Mr. Thaci planned the assassination attempt on Mr. Bukoshi last May. The plot failed. ‘’Thaci has a single goal and that is to promote himself, to be No. 1,'’ Mr. Bukoshi said.
As tensions rose, Mr. Thaci and the Albanian authorities decided to eliminate [Albanian ex-Yugoslav colonel Ahmet] Krasniqi, according to former rebel commanders and two former Albanian officials interviewed in Tirana.
They said that in the middle of September 1998, Albanian police stopped Mr. Krasniqi and several aides and confiscated their weapons. Mr. Krasniqi’s office in Tirana was raided by about 50 policemen and emptied of guns and munitions. On Sept. 21 at 11 P.M. on the way back from a restaurant in Tirana, Mr. Krasniqi ran into a police checkpoint about 300 yards from his office…When Mr. Krasniqi and his two companions got out of their gray Opal jeep they saw three men emerge from the shadows with black hoods over their faces. The men, speaking with an Albanian accent that distinguished them from Kosovo Albanians, ordered the two men with Mr. Krasniqi to get down on the ground.
‘’Which one is it?'’ asked one of the gunmen, according to one of the commanders who was prone on the asphalt.
‘’The one in the middle,'’ said another. The gunmen, who held a pistol a few inches from Mr. Krasniqi’s head, fired a shot. He then fired two more shots into Mr. Krasniqi’s head once he fell onto the pavement.
After Mr. Krasniqi’s death, former rebel commanders said, the killings, purges and arrests accelerated. Rebel police, dressed in distinctive black fatigues, threw into detention anyone who appeared hostile to Mr. Thaci. Many of these people were beaten.
One commander, Blerim Kuci, was taken away in October 1998 to a rebel army jail and hauled before a revolutionary court, rebel commanders said. He was held for weeks on charges that he collaborated with the Serbs , and then was suddenly released in the face of a large Serbian offensive and allowed to rejoin the fight.
‘’I saw an accused collaborator tried before a revolutionary court and then tied to the back of a car in Glodjane and dragged through the streets until he died,'’ said a former rebel officer in Albania. A senior State Department official and a Western diplomat in the Balkans confirmed this account.
As NATO bombs fell on Kosovo this April, two more outspoken commanders, Agim Ramadani, a captain in the former Yugoslav Army, and Sali Ceku, were killed, each in an alleged Serbian ambush. […]
Below is just another recent Swiss-Albanian item, for which I’d previously had an update because of the Albanian protests that ensued in Switzerland over the extradition:
A Kosovar wanted for war crimes may be extradited to Serbia, the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona has ruled.
The man, a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was detained last April at the request of Serbia which sent Switzerland a formal extradition request in March.
He is accused of committing war crimes against Serb civilians and Albanians in 1999, in Gnjilane, about 50 kilometres from the Kosovan capital, Pristina.
In a ruling published on Friday, the court said Belgrade’s extradition request fulfilled the necessary legal requirements for the man’s extradition.
The court rejected the contention that the extradition was politically motivated “on the grounds that there is no serious reason to consider that the prosecution by the Serbian authorities is motivated by a particular social group, his race, religion or nationality”. […]
Once again, I call attention to the persistent attempt to paint any and all Serbian investigation or prosecution of non-Serbs as “politically motivated.” And Switzerland, increasingly fed up with these Balkan antics, made the atypical move of treating a Serbian warrant or extradition request with the same weight it would another country’s. I also couldn’t help notice the increasingly freer use of words such as “criminal” with regard to Kosovo-Albanian politicians — at least when they’re on Swiss shores (as opposed to Serbia’s).