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EU prosecutor to visit Albania to investigate organ trafficking allegations
TIRANA, Albania (AP) ' An EU prosecutor will travel to Albania to investigate allegations that a criminal network sold organs of civilian captives there during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, an official said Wednesday.
Xavier de Marnhac, head of the European Union mission in Kosovo, announced the plan at a news conference in Albania, saying the prosecutor will arrive in the coming weeks. He didn't identify the official, but it is expected to be American John Clint Williamson, the lead prosecutor in the task force set up to conduct the investigation.
In a report last year, Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty alleged that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other rebel commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers on Albania's border with Kosovo, where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia. Kosovo's population is predominantly ethnic Albanian.
Marty's report followed allegations of organ trafficking in a book written by former U.N. War Crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.
Both Thaci and Albania have denied those allegations.
"It is in the interest of all the region that this investigation comes to a clear conclusion and is able to provide an end to that story," de Marnhac said.
Albanian Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto said Wednesday that his government and the nation's institutions would be "open and supportive to a full and conclusive investigation."
"We are sure that will prove the falsity of allegations and we want that such a chapter is closed once and for all," he said at the news conference with de Marnhac.
Meanwhile, a trial of Kosovars accused of participating in an international organ trafficking ring opened in Pristina, Kosovo, on Tuesday.
A European Union prosecutor read out an indictment charging the seven Kosovo nationals of involvement in an international organ trafficking network.
In the indictment, Jonathan Ratel said the defendants, including a former senior Health Ministry official, ran a network that falsely promised poor people payment for their kidneys, then sold the organs for as much as euro100,000 ($137,000).
The trial continued in Pristina on Wednesday, but it was closed to the public for the questioning of a protected witness.
AP reporter Nebi Qena contributed from Kosovo.