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Kosovo21 May 2008

Newspaper editor arrested by UN tribunal for naming protected witness

Yesterday’s arrest of Baton Haxhiu, the editor of the Pristina-based daily Express, on the orders of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was unnecessary and could have been avoided, Reporters Without Borders said today.

Haxhiu is charged with contempt of court for revealing the name of a protected witness in an article in the newspaper on 24 December 2007, during former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s war crimes trial. Haradinaj was acquitted but an appeal is pending.

The article reported that former culture minister Astrit Haraqija and one of his advisers, Bajrush Morina, were pressuring a protected witness not to testify against Haradinaj. He and his adviser are themselves to be tried next month.

After being notified on 19 May of the ICTY’s decision to charge him, Haxhiu cooperated with the Kosovo police and agreed to go with them the next day and to be escorted to the ICTY’s headquarters in the Hague, where he pleaded not guilty today. His lawyer’s request for his provisional release was not opposed by the prosecution.

“It is understandable that the ICTY would want to question a journalist who violated its rules on the protection of witnesses, but we can only regret the methods used to ensure his cooperation,” Reporters Without Borders said today. “It seems that Haxhiu was entirely read to cooperate freely with the ICTY so his arrest could have been avoided.”

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