Albanians had no part in Serb massacre

NIS, May 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) A defense lawyer for two Kosovo Albanians accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering Serbs said on Wednesday the prosecution had no evidence to link his clients to the crimes.

Prosecutors allege cousins Bekim Mazreku and Luan Mazreku were among 20 people who massacred Serbs in the village of Klecka, southwest of Kosovo's capital Pristina, in 1998.

Defense lawyer Cedomir Nikolic conceded that the massacre probably happened, but he told Reuters that his clients were not involved.

"We don't want to defend a crime that probably happened in Klecka, but we want to eliminate any connection of our clients with the crime. The prosecutor simply did not submit any evidence of that so far," Nikolic said.

He criticized judges for overruling more than 20 defense requests - including the report of a Finnish forensic team - since the sensitive trial opened in early April. The only defense request the court had allowed was the summoning of a local police commander as a witness.

He failed to turn up for the third time on Wednesday.

"It does not make sense anymore...They refused...important requests that could give a different picture of the event, including that (the cousins) did not have anything to do with the Klecka massacre," Nikolic said.

After capturing Klecka from the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, Serbian police showed reporters a brick furnace. Serbs had been executed by firing squad and their bodies then burned in the furnace in quicklime, police said.

Evidence presented by prosecutors included photographs, human bones from the furnace and a video-taped confession by Bekim Mazreku. The cousins say their confessions were made under duress and that they were drugged.

Yugoslavia has complained that the international community has not treated alleged crimes against Serbs with the same gravity as those against Albanians.

The cousins are also charged with kidnapping and murdering ethnic Albanians in a separate incident. Luan is additionally accused of raping and torturing a Serb girl and of cutting off the ear of an eight-year-old Serb boy.

If found guilty, the two defendants face up to 20 years in jail. The trial resumes on May 30.

Original article