Pristina Basic Court found Naser Kelmendi guilty on Thursday and sentenced him to four years and eight months of imprisonment on drug trafficking charges.
This was the second trial against Kelmendi and came more than five years after the same court sentenced him to six years of imprisonment on the same charges in February 2018. The verdict was overturned in August that year when Kosovo’s Court of Appeals ordered a retrial.
“Naser Kelmendi is [found] guilty because in July-August 2013 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, acting in an unauthorized manner and in cooperation with a person coded K2 and three other unidentified men, he committed a criminal charge by putting into circulation 25 kilograms of heroin,” Judge Suzana Cerkini said in the verdict.
Kelmendi was not present in court when the verdict was announced but his lawyer, Besnik Berisha, announced that he will again appeal the verdict.
Kelmendi’s first trial began in January 2015, when he was charged with aggravated murder, two counts of organised crime and six counts of the sale and production of drugs in various capacities, which include managing and overseeing a narcotics ring.
During this trial, witnesses spoke of Kelmendi’s alleged connections to other criminals, tycoons and politicians across the region, including the Bosnian media mogul and politician Fahrudin Radoncic, who denied involvement in the case.
The highest-profile charge concerned the 2007 murder of Ramiz Delalic, a Bosnian former warlord.
“Delalic had given law-enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina extensive information about the drug-trafficking operations of Naser Kelmendi. Delalic was also trying to establish his own trafficking operations in Bosnia, which was perceived by Kelmendi as a threat to his criminal organisation,” Andrew Hughes, the EULEX prosecutor when the trial began in 2015, said.
As the first trial moved to a close, Kelmendi said: “The entire process has been fabricated”. In relation to the accusation of murdering Delalic, Kelmendi said he had been “a victim of framing from Bosnia – with the help of the prosecution”.
In 2018, the Pristina Basic Court found Kelmendi not guilty of the murder of Delacic.
During the trial, a protected witness codenamed K1 – a member of Kelmendi’s alleged crime ring – said Kelmendi had operated a Balkan drugs ring for years. Testifying against his alleged former boss, he stated that the group smuggled heroin from Turkey through Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia, from where it was sold on to various European countries.
Kelmendi denied ever dealing with drugs, however. “Regarding the drugs charge, I also swear that I never dealt with drugs in my life and I will not,” he told the court.
A Kosovo Albanian with Bosnian citizenship, he was arrested on May 2013 based on an international warrant arrest issued from Bosnia.
Since Bosnia and Kosovo have no diplomatic relations or extradition agreements, Kelmendi has been tried in Kosovo only. However, he faces charges in Bosnia as well.
In Bosnia, Kelmendi is accused of organised crime, attempted murder and the sale and distribution of narcotics in Latin America, Turkey, Serbia, Croatia and other Western European countries.
The Pristina Basic Court released him from prison on February 2017, but only a few days afterwards another ruling put him in jail again.
At the request of the defence, the court put him under house arrest in March 2017 – but he was put back in custody again in April.
He was released in June that year, however, and has since been at liberty.
Source: Balkan Inisght