Three Albanians sentenced for rapeJan 31, 2000
BELGRADE - Three ethnic Albanians from Kosovo were sentenced Thursday to up to 14 years in prison by a Serb court for rape and terrorist activities, Beta news agency reported.
Safet and Sead Kabashi, from the southern Kosovo region of Rahovec (Orahovac), were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, Kaplan Mazreku, accused of being an accomplice, was jailed for 10 years, and the fourth defendant, Bekim Kabashi, was released due to a lack of evidence, the agency said.
The four were accused of being members of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), considered "terrorists" by Belgrade, which fought for independence for Kosovos ethnic Albanian majority.
The KLA was officially demilitarised last September after the United Nations took over the administration of Kosovo.
According to the prosecution, Safet Kabashi, arrested last August, and two other Albanians, who remained at large, took part in a capture of a group of Serbs.
They and 50 other KLA members "picked a Serb girl from a group and raped her," the agency quoted the indictment as saying.
All the defendants pleaded not guilty at the trial, held in the eastern Serbian town of Pozarevac, the home-town of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
On Wednesday, a court in the Serbian town of Nis acquitted and released two of nine Kosovo Albanians facing trial on charges of belonging to the KLA, but sentenced another defendant to a years imprisonment.
A third trial of six Albanians accused of organising a local KLA unit in January 1999 in the Kosovo village of Gracanica was adjourned until February 11. If found guilty, they face jail sentences of up to 15 years.
Tensions between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo remain high. Many ethnic Albanians were killed by Serb forces during Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevics 18-month crackdown against separatists in Kosovo. After NATO bombing forced the Serb troops to withdraw last spring, ethnic Albanians began attacking Serbs as revenge.
A total of 1,700 ethnic Albanians are currently held in Serbian prisons, mostly accused of being members of the KLA, according to the non-governmental Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade.
More than 170 ethnic Albanians have been convicted in the past three months and sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 15 years. More than 230 other defendants have been released since mid-June, when Belgrade transferred some 2,050 prisoners from Kosovo when it was forced by NATO air attacks to withdraw its forces from the province.