There is a lot of press coverage over the case of Albin Kurti, the prominent leader of Vetevendosje!, a group in Kosovo that, among other things, advocates for independence. He is currently on trial for his actions on February 10, 2007. I could not find on either the websites of the press or the human rights groups the actual indictment, which contain the charges against Kurti that he is on trial for. So, for those following the trial in the press or in person, I was able to track down a copy of the indictment. Also, check out http://www.freealbinkurti.org for an interesting view on the case against him.
Office of the District Public Prosecutor PP No. 571/07 Prishtinë/Priština 31 May 2007
Pursuant to Article 304 and 305 of the Provisional Criminal Procedure Code (PCPCK), the undersigned International Prosecutor hereby files this: INDICTMENT Against:
- Albin KURTI, DOB 24.03.1975, POB Pristina, the son of Zaim, the father and Arife, the mother maiden name Tahiri,Kosovo Albanian, residing at 76 Kroni i Bardhe Street in Pristina, unmarried, can read and write, university graduate, activist of the “Vetvendosje” Movement, of average economic status, previously sentenced because of criminal offenses, having denied representation by legal counsel, represented ex officioby Ahmet Hasolli, under detention on remand from 10 February 2006 to 10 May 2006 and again currently on detention on remand from 11 May 2006,
Because there is a well grounded suspicion that on 10 February 2007 between the approximate hours of 1400 and 1700 in Prishtinë/Priština, he committed the following offences:
- Participating in a Crowd Committing a Criminal Offence, as an organizer and participant of a protest on behalf of the Vetëvendojse Movement, he attempted to have the assembled crowd of several thousand people, by collective action, cause general danger and/or damage property on a large scale by the throwing of 351 glass bottles filled with a red substance at the vehicles and buildings of the Kosovo Government, Assembly and UNMIK, and thereby he attempted to commit via Article 20 of the PCCK the offence defined Article 320 (1) of the PCCK and penalized by Article 320 (2) of the PCCK
- Participating in a Group Obstructing Official Persons in Performing Official Duties, as leader of a group of several thousand people assembled near the National Theatre as part of a protest march who by common action obstructed official persons, KPS police and UNMIK police in performing their official duty of protecting the property of the Government and Assembly of Kosovo and UNMIK, by personally and having others push through an organized police cordon, and thereby he committed the offence defined by Article 318 (1) of the PCCK and penalized under Article 318 (2) of the PCCK and
. COUNT 3
- Call to Resistanceby calling on members of Vetëvendosje and other assembled protesters with the words “We will continue with our protesting march, while I will come down and we will proceed according to our scenario towards the institutions and this time we will “take a turn” as on November 28thto the other side. So then, let’s “park ourselves” towards self-determination, let’s “park ourselves”… “Vetvedosje!” to prevent, by use of force or serious threat the execution of lawful decisions or measures to establish a police cordon across Nenë Tereza St to prevent protesters from proceding further issued by the KPS and UNMIK while carrying out an official activity as defined under Article 319 (1) of the PCCK and penalized by Article 319 (2) of the PCCK;
As to the requirements of Articles 305 (4) and (5) of the PCPCK the Public Prosecutor provides the following:
Evidence and information gathered during police investigation and investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor has established that on 10 February 2007, at 14.00 hours, the Vetëvendosje (“Self-Determination” in English) Movement commenced a protest march on the streets of Prishtinë/Priština. This march was conducted without the permission from the competent authorities (i.e. the Police). The leader and organizer of this protest march was Albin KURTI, the leader of the Vetëvendosje Movement. The protest began on “Perandori Justinian” street in the neighborhood of Pejton in Prishtinë/Priština, near the premises of the Vetëvendosje Movement. Albin Kurti took a place at or near the front of the procession at all times. There were approximately 2500 to 3000 protestors which followed behind him. The goal of the protest was to demolish and destroy official vehicles of the Kosovo government and UNMIK and enter the Kosovo Government institutions.
Measures such as the placement of metal barricades, security tape and organized cordons of police (KPS and International) and equipment indeed had been placed on the roads in the center of Prishtinë/Prištinaas well as at the “Skenderbeu” Square. These measures were undertaken by the lawful order of KPS and UNMIK in order to prevent damages to the properties of the government institutions of Kosovo and UNMIK. This is because of the large scale damage caused at the protest organized previously by Vetëvendosje on November 28, 2006.
On that date, the throwing of rocks and bottles filled with red paint caused 32,112.10 Euros damage to the Kosovo Parliament and Government Building and 10,709.04 Euros damage to UNMIK Headquarters after Albin Kurti told the crowd on a loud speaker from near the Skenderbeu monument that movement activists would “throw bottles peacefully, and put colour on the institutions.” Video taken of the protest on 10 February 2007 records that Albin Kurti and other members of the Vetëvendosje Movement such as Xhaelal Sfeqla and Glauk Konjufca, were dressed in white t-shirts with the words “LËVIZJA” in black and “VETËVENDOSJE” in larger red lettering on it. These t-shirts were worn on the outside of their clothing and made them stand out from the crowd. Analyzing the video record reveals that the individuals in these white t-shirts acted in an organized way in the protest procession and when the protest march stopped in front of the police blockade.
The group of protestors, lead by Albin Kurti, proceeded along Luan Haradinaj Street and then through Garibaldi Street and Mother Theresa Street, arriving in the vicinity of the Skenderbeu Square. There, their progress was prevented by barricades and KPS and International police officers placed across Nëna Tereza St near the National Theatre. A truck arrived from the rear of the protesters and was parked at the distance of some 5 to 10 meters from the police cordon. This truck was used as a stage on which loudspeakers had been previously installed. Albin Kurti and other persons delivered speeches from that truck. The protest at that particular time was quite and without incident.
Approximately 2 minutes before Albin Kurti’s final speech on that day, Glauk Konjufca is seen and heard on the video records made of the speeches as saying, “We are not going to tolerate this. We are going to break the police line. We came here to protest.” (English translation)
Albin KURTI is the last to address the assembled crowd. As he addressed the mass of protesters from the top of the large truck his concluding words were announced in Albanian: “Ne do të vazhdojmë me marshin tone protestues, kurse unë do të zbres poshtë dhe do të vazhdojmë sipas skenarit tonë drejt institucioneve dhe në këtë rast do të “lakojmë” sikur më 28 nëntor në anën tjetër. Atëhere pra, parkohena drejt Vetëvendosjes, “parkohena”…. “Vetëvendosje!”
English translation“We will continue with our protesting march, while I will come down and we will proceed according to our scenario towards the institutions and this time we will “take a turn” as on November 28thto the other side. So then, let’s “park ourselves” towards self-determination, let’s “park ourselves”… Vetëvedosje! “ [Note: The words “take a turn”, “park ourselves” are not heard clearly on the video due to the noise of crowd cheering]
Immediately after this call, which was made at approximately 15.20 hours, a group of people dressed in the white Vetëvendosje t-shirts quickly and in an organized fashion began removing the iron barricades from the road and threw them on the sidewalk on both sides of the road. They were later assisted by other members of the protest crowd. During this time Albin Kurti came down from the top of the truck and took a place in front and in the center of the protesters approximately 1.5 to 2 meters from the first line of police who were dressed in riot gear including shields. The police, using loudspeakers, warned the protesters several times not to remove the barricades and not to continue any further. However, due to the noise of the crowd and volume limitations of the loudspeakers not all the protesters were able to hear that warning.
The videos collected by the Public Prosecutor in its investigation to date clearly show that the individuals in the white Vetëvendosje t-shirts link arms and form the front row of the protest group. The video evidence shows Albin Kurti turn his head and appear to nod and perhaps speak to a protester to his side and immediately he moves forward into the police line along with the other protesters in the front row. They are then followed by the other protesters behind him. Some protestors behind the front row immediately then began throwing items such as stones, bricks, and wooden sticks at the police. The protesters break the police line and move forward some meters in the direction of the Parliament and Government Building. Among those making the greatest advance is Albin Kurti and those wearing the white Vetëvendosje t-shirts surrounding him.
Tear gas is deployed as well as rubber bullets by the police present behind the front row of police. In a short time the protesters move back. However the throwing of stones and objects continues to be directed at the police. There is video footage and still photographs collected of Albin KURTI, throwing a wooden stick at a marked UN vehicle. At some point in time after the initial advance of protesters into the police, Albin Kurti, is overheard saying that he is the organizer of the protest and that at protests he organizes, rocks should not be thrown.Despite this, there is evidence that Albin Kurti was throwing rocks at police along with other protesters.
Protesters were responsible for causing damage to these vehicles: UNMIK vehicle with the license plate UN22433 in the amount of $1277.22; UN vehicle with the license plate UN 2100 in the amount of $381.08, Ministry of Public Services vehicle with the license plate 493-KS-225 in the amount of approximately 280 Euros and a civilian vehicle with license plate number 502-KS-781 in the amount of approximately 150 Euros. The demonstrators attempted to reorganize however the police were able to disperse them by taking the situation under control and by opening the streets for the normal flow of traffic for people and the vehicles. The streets were generally cleared by 1730 hours. During the police attempts to take control of the situation over a dozen people were arrested. They appeared at the Minor Offence Court. 4 people were sentenced to 15 days in prison, 8 were sentenced to 40 days in prison and one was given a reprimand.
As a consequence of this protest 82 people required medical treatment at the UCC. Two people died as a result of the injuries they sustained. However, in this Indictment the Public Prosecutor specifically states that Mr. Kurti is not criminally responsible for those deaths caused by the actions of the police. Several KPS police officers also sustained injuries consistent with light bodily harm whilst performing their official duties as a result of the actions of the protesters.
After the streets were cleared and put under control, Mr. Kurti made a statement to the media before his arrest. In that statement which was video taped he says in Albanian: “Policia nuk ka qenë aspak e provokuar. Krejt cka kemi dashe ne me ba ka qenë marsh protestues sic e thamë edhe ne fjalim, i cili ka qenë në të njëjtën trajektore si më datën 28 nëntor.”
English Translation The police was not provoked at all. All we wanted to do was a protesting march, which was along the same lines/trajectory as the one on November 28th. It is noted that beyond the police cordon on 10 February 2007 were the Assembly and Government Buildings (only 65 meters away) that had been attacked and damaged extensively on 28 November 2006.
In his statements to the Pre-trial judge, after being duly warned of his right to silence and warned he need not incriminate himself, Mr. Kurti again brought up November 28th. In this statement he admitted by using the word “we” to being part of the collective group that caused damage on 28 November 2006: “I would like to say something about the demonstration. Whenever the demonstration went according to our plans there was never any incident/injury. On 28th November there were many committed people. We damaged property but no one was hurt. We have damaged property since our existence on 12th June 2005.” Police confiscated at the scene the flat bed truck (license plates 340-KS-237) used to carry the sound amplification equipment and that was used by those giving speeches and a van used by the demonstrators during the protest.
From the flat bed of that truck were found 351 bottles filled with a red liquid believed to be paint. Those bottles were observed on video tape collected as evidence in the investigation as being taken from the Vetëvendosje office in Prishtinë/Priština to the truck. Albin Kurti is observed leaving that same building a short time later to join the individuals waiting to begin the protest march. During the search of the Vetëvedosje Movement offices in Prishtinë/Priština on 11 February 2007 conducted pursuant to Article 245 (3) of the PCPCK, there was found one bottle of the same shape and appearance as that found on the truck also filled with a red liquid believed to be paint. This bottle was found hanging between posters on the wall advertising Vetëvendosje protests on 28th November 2006 and 10 February 2007. Given Mr. Kurti’s reference to November 28th(during which many bottles of paint were thrown at UNMIK Headquarters, Kosovo Parliament and Government Building causing great damage) in the final words he used to the crowd gathered in the afternoon of 10 February, combined with the following facts:
i) His statement at the time urged the crowd to continue to “the institutions”;
ii) His media statement after the incident on 10 February 2007 indicated that the goal was to continue in similar manner as was done on 28 November 2006;
iii) The fact that in the days after the protest, Glauk Konjufca was reported by Lajm newspaper as saying the target of the planned attack were the expensive jeeps of the executive;
iv) That Vetëvendosje Newsletter #30 dated 20 February 2007 available on the website of the movement (www.vetevendosje.org) states, “We brought bottles of paint to throw at the cars, if they were accessible from the road.” and
v) The evidence of the witnesses of what the plan was for the protest (see footnote 1) it is the submission of the Public Prosecutor that Mr. Kurti’s plan and intention was, at minimum, to lead the protesters to have them throw hundreds of paint bottles at Kosovo government vehicles, premises and UNMIK property as he had organized and incited previously causing great damage.
Given that there were 351 such bottles to use, the potential damage to buildings and/or vehicles could only be described as large and extensive both qualitatively and quantitatively. The throwing of that number of items among a crowd also qualifies an act that would cause a general danger to the nearby public on the streets, in or near the target buildings and/or vehicles, other protesters and police present. His call to the assembled crowd as quoted above, followed soon afterwards with an organized and directed action of breaking the police cordon, with the glass bottles near and easily available, amounts to Albin Kurti’s immediate action toward the causing of general danger and causing property on a large scale to meet the definition of an attempt in Article 20(1).
Witnesses have been examined by the Public Prosecutor or by the judicial police on the Public Prosecutor’s request as well as exhibits have been seized and examined. From an analysis of the information collected and summarized above, there is a well grounded suspicion regarding:
Count 1: that Albin Kurti was not only was a participant, but was also the organizer of the crowd that assembled on 10 February 2007; he attempted to have the assembled crowd cause general danger, damage to property on a large scale or commit
Count 2: that Albin Kurti was not only a participant, but also the leader of a group of persons who, by common action, obstructed or attempted to obstruct official persons performing official duties by his actions in inciting and encouraging others to join him in breaking the police cordon and that had been officially established to protect government and UNMIK institutions and by actually personally breaking the police cordon by the use of physical force.
Count 3: that Albin Kurti called on members of his Vetëvendosje Movement and theassembled protesters to prevent the execution of the lawful decision or measure issued by the KPS and/or UNMIK to prevent the protesters from proceeding further or an official carrying out the official activity of preventing the protesters from proceeding further.