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UNS info

24. 07. 2018.

Author: Jelena L. Petković ???source???: UNS

20 years have passed since the abduction and murder of Pristina professor and journalist Shaban Hoti

The main road leading from Pristina towards Peja in July 1998 was controlled by the KLA and in the vicinity of the municipality of Glogovac they formed the Lapushnik camp. It was placed on a farmstead.

In a house, in a garage and in a stable were held prisoners. The Albanians were arrested by the KLA mainly by entering their homes in the surrounding villages, but also in the municipalities of Lipljan and Shtimlje. The Serbs who ended up in Lapushnik were arrested mostly on the Pristina-Prizren highway, near the town of Dule.

There, the KLA often stopped cars and buses and took the passengers away. Russian language professor Shaban Hoti agreed with a team of Russian journalists to translate for them while on field. He was captured on July 21, 1998, when a Russian TV crew went with him to interview KLA members, says the director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Prishtina, Bekim Blakaj, in a conversation for the Journalists Association of Serbia (UNS) about the fate of Professor Hoti, an interpreter and journalist.

Hoti was captured on July 21, 1998, along with journalist Oleg Safiulin, cameraman Alexander Galanov and cameraman Victor Mamaev. Journalists from Russia were released on the same day, and Professor Hoti was shot five days later on Berisha Mountain. Hajrednin Balaj, whose war nickname was "Shala", was sentenced to 13 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for this murder and eight more civilians. The indictment for the Lapushnik camp before the Hague Tribunal also included the KLA commander, Fatmir Limaj, but he was acquitted on the base of lack of evidence for his command responsibility. The Humanitarian Law Center closely followed this trial.

- When they reached the village of Komorane on that day, the Serbian police told them that they should not go on, because they had no control over the territory. However, the journalists continued. After a kilometer or two, they were stopped by members of the KLA, and as Russian journalists testified, they were subsequently detained, and Hoti was separately detained. During the trial at The Hague, we heard a part, but we do not know a whole stort, what Hoti really survived at the Lapusnik camp. Also, the reasons for his detention are not fully explained - says Blakaj for UNS.
But, according to our interlocutor, the court verdict has documented that all the prisoners held in that camp, KLA took towards the Berisha Mountain. Some of them were released, and part of them were taken further into the mountain and shot:

- Professor Hoti was also among those killed, whose posthumous remains were found in 2001 at exactly the place where he was killed. The Trial Chamber has proved that Hajredin Balaj shot at them. He served most of the 13 prison sentence, and then released - our interlocutor says.

Asked if the journalists were a special target, Blakaj underlines that it was a time when many civilians, many prominent people were killed.

- Apparently the journalists were targeted, but every human life is valuable regardless of the profession. At that time, there
were murders and kidnappings, and especially after the war, of famous doctors, lawyers, singers, artists, politicians ... There are no court rulings, so we can not say what is behind it. When it comes to Serbian journalists, it is obvious that they were kidnapped and killed because they were Serbs - concluded Blakaj.
The name of Professor Saban Hoti is in the Kosovo Memory Book of the Humanitarian Law Centar, in which he is listed as a professor, translator and a journalist. In April, the Journlists Association of Serbia published information on Professor Hoti, the 15th person on the list of killed and kidnapped journalists and media workers in Kosovo.

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