Transplant recipient testifies in Kosovo organs case

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A Canadian witness told a trial over alleged illegal organ trafficking in Kosovo how he received a kidney at the Medicus clinic -- and may even have flown in with his young Russian donor.

Raul Fain, 66, testifying by video link from Ontario, Canada, told the court Friday he had had transplant surgery in mid-2008 at the Medicus clinic, which has since been shut down.

Fain said that with help from relatives in Israel, he had made contact with Moshe Harel, whom the indictment describes as the mastermind of a network for recruiting donors and finding recepients.

Fain testified that he agreed with Harel to pay 80,000 euros ($106,000) for a kidney transplant and flew with him to Pristina.

The witness recalled "two young Russian ladies" flying with them to donate the organs, including one he believed was transplanted to him.

Fain said he met another of the defendants in Pristina, Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez, who is accused of having performed the illegal transplants. He said he also met a German patient who received a kidney the same day he did.

An EU dominated panel is now trying seven people in the so-called Medicus case, named after the Pristina clinic where the crimes allegedly took place.

According to the indictment, the clinic carried out at least 30 illegal kidney removals and transplants, using donors from poor Eastern European and Central Asian countries, who were promised about 15,000 euros each.

An EU prosecutor at the trial has proposed calling as a witness the author of a damning report on the subject, a move opposed by defence lawyers who object that it would politicise the trial.

The proposed witness, Dick Marty, was the Council of Europe's rapporteur on alleged organ trafficking during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

His report alleged that senior commanders of the rebel Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, including incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, were involved in organised crime and organ trafficking during and after the war.

The report set out claims that organs were taken from prisoners, many of them Serbs, held by the KLA in Albania in the late 1990s. Both Kosovo and Albania denied the accusations and rejected the report.

"I have every reason to believe that he retains in his possession the evidence relevant for this case," Special EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel told the court Friday.

Ratel read from Marty's report, adopted by Council in Europe in 2011, in which the author said he had found "credible, convergent indications" that the wartime organ trafficking "is closely related to the contemporary case".

But defence lawyers for the seven suspects -- including former Kosovo health secretary Ilir Rrecaj and Lutfi Dervishi, a prominent Pristina urologist -- objected to the request.

"This is a criminal court, and it will be transformed in a political court if he comes here as a witness," said one lawyer, Ismet Shufta.

Presiding judge Arkadiusz Sedek from Poland said the court would decide on the motion in coming days.

The Medicus trial is the first to be taken on by EULEX, the European rule of law mission in Kosovo, set up to help the local judiciary handle sensitive cases after the territory declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

© 2012 AFP

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