December 19, 2018 / 11:27 AM / a month ago

Serbian former police general banned from entering U.S. over 1999 killings

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department has banned a Serbian former police commander from entering the United States, alleging he played a part in the killings of three U.S.-born Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

Brothers Mehmet, Agron and Ylli Bytyqi had travelled from the United States to join the 1998-1999 Kosovo Albanian fight for independence from Serbia. In 1999 they strayed over the Kosovo border into the neighbouring area of Serbia in 1999, were arrested and sentenced to a short prison term.

After being released from prison, they were picked up by Serb security forces, taken to a police training camp and executed there, according to the records of a Serbian court from 2013.

In a news release late on Tuesday, the State Department said it had “publicly designated” Goran Radosavljevic and his immediate family and banned them from entering the United States.

“Radosavljevic was credibly implicated in the 1999 murder of the Bytyqi brothers,” it said.

The bodies of the brothers were found in 2001 in a mass grave in Serbia, alongside the remains of other Kosovo Albanians.

No comment was immediately available from Radosavljevic on Wednesday. In 2007 testimony, he said he had been on vacation at the time of the detention and killings of the Bytyqi brothers and denied any involvement.

The Bytyqi case is still being investigated by Serbia’s War Crimes Court and remains an issue in relations between Serbia and the United States.

Radosavljevic took part in the Kosovo war which ended in 1999 when a NATO bombing campaign forced Serb troops to end their counterinsurgency against independence-seeking Kosovo Albanians.

After the ouster of Serbia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Radosavljevic commanded the elite Serbian Gendarmerie with the rank of general.

He was the key field commander in Serbia’s 2000-2001 counterinsurgency against ethnic Albanian rebels in southern Serbia’s Presevo valley.

Radosavljevic retired in 2005 and in 2010 joined the ruling Serbian Progressive Party of President Aleksandar Vucic. He is rarely seen in public.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Editing by Andrew Roche

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