September 28, 2011 / 2:41 PM / 8 years ago

Kosovo war crimes witness found dead in Germany

PRISTINA (Reuters) - A witness in a war crimes case against a member of Kosovo’s parliament has been found dead in Germany, an EU police and justice mission (EULEX) spokesman said on Wednesday.

Ruling party parliamentarian Fatmir Limaj, who was put under house arrest last week, and nine other people arrested in March are accused of committing murder, torture and violations of the human rights of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and prisoners during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war with Serbia.

Agim Zogaj, known as witness X in the war crimes case, was found dead in a German park, said EULEX spokesman Blerim Krasniqi, adding: “The German authorities are conducting the necessary investigation to determine the circumstances of his death.”

A German police spokesman said investigators suspected that Zogaj killed himself but the investigation was still in progress and the police were waiting for the coroner’s report.

“There are no indications it was anything else,” the police spokesman said. He added an autopsy would be carried out on Thursday.

Zogaj, who was a soldier under Limaj’s command during Kosovo’s war for independence, was sent to Germany as a protected witness. Police would not confirm media reports in Kosovo that he had killed himself.

Those charged are former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought Serb forces for independence.

Limaj, an ally of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, was a leading figure in the KLA.

Seen as a liberator by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Limaj was acquitted by The Hague war crimes tribunal in 2005, two years after he was indicted on similar charges.

Limaj also faces corruption charges relating to his time as transport minister in a previous government.

The EULEX mission has mainly a monitoring role, helping Kosovo strengthen the rule of law, but it has some executive powers in cases such as war crimes, corruption and organised crime.

More than 10,000 civilians, overwhelmingly ethnic Albanians, were killed and 800,000 Albanians were forced from their homes in the former Serbian province during the conflict, which prompted NATO bombing of Serbia and ended with the United Nations taking control of Kosovo in 1999. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Myra MacDonald

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