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Kosovo UN court frees German bomb attack suspects

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-28

A U.N. court in Kosovo released three German spies suspected of throwing a bomb at the EU office in Kosovo. Germany said the parliamentary committee overseeing intelligence operations had established the three were not involved in terror.

An international court in Kosovo decided Friday to release three Germans suspected of being spies involved in a bomb attack on the office of the European envoy in Pristina, their lawyers said.
   
"Our appeal was accepted and their detention was revoked," lawyer Fehmije Gashi-Bytyci told reporters.
   
Adem Ademi, another defence lawyer, said that, according to the court's decision, the three Germans could return home.
   
The German nationals were arrested on November 19 on suspicion of having bombed the Pristina headquarters of the International Civilian Office (ICO), run by EU special envoy Pieter Feith.
   
On Thursday, the Kosovo court deferred to international judicial authorities its decision on an appeal by lawyers acting for the three against their month-long suspension based on a lack of evidence.
   
The international judges, present in Kosovo as part of a post-war mission of the United Nations, decided to accept the appeal filed by defence.
   
Gashi-Bytyci said the three, whose identity was not revealed, "are now free and will defend themselves while on bail."
   
Ademi said the defence had also demanded the three to be cleared from all charges, but this request "was not considered at all."
   
Upon the lawyers' announcement, an AFP photographer saw a man with a cap and face covered with scarf leaving Pristina's prison, accompanied with German embassy personnel and boarding a car with German diplomatic plates.
   
The other two suspects were held in the prison in Lipljan, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the capital Pristina.
   
A private flight for Berlin was scheduled at Pristina airport for 8:30 pm (1930 GMT), approved by flight authorities, but there was no confirmation it was planned to take up the freed Germans.
   
Earlier on Friday, the Berlin government called on Kosovo authorities to release the three, while refusing to reveal their identity amid reports they worked for Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND.
   
"The German government ... calls for the immediate release of the three German citizens," government spokesman Thomas Steg said, reiterating the trio were "not implicated in the terrorist attack".
   
Kosovo and German media reports said the trio were investigating the blast for the BND. Since they were not registered with the Kosovan government, however, they had no diplomatic immunity.
   
The explosion came amid opposition by Kosovo Albanians to the planned deployment of a European Union civilian mission focused on police, judiciary and customs by early December under an agreement reached between the United Nations and Serbia.
   
No-one was injured in the blast, which shattered the windows of the ICO office.
   
In February, ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, which has rejected the move as a breach of international law.
   
More than 50 states, including the United States and most EU members, have recognised Kosovo's independence.
 

Date created : 2008-11-28

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