Defendants accused of organising attacks against Israelis deny guilt
by Labinot Leposhtica
Nine suspects accused of involvement in a planned attack against Israeli footballers in Albania appeared in their first hearing, with one suspect pleading guilty to the charges.
Nine individuals accused of planning to attack players of the Israeli national football team and their fans went to court for trial in Prishtina for their accusations on Wednesday.
The accused were part of a group of 19 people who were arrested by Kosovo Police between November 4 and 16, 2016. The suspects were allegedly planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Kosovo and Albania against Israeli footballers playing in a World Cup qualifying match in Elbasan, Albania.
Substantial amounts of explosives, weapons, and radio-communication devices were found during the arrests, Kosovo police reported in November 2016. Police also said that the suspects were in groups coordinated by two Kosovar ISIS members, Lavdim Muhaxheri and Ridvan Haqifi.
According to the indictment read on Wednesday by Special Prosecution Prosecutor Merita Bina-Rugova, four of the defendants planned to attack Israeli football players and fans.
“The defendants Visar Ibishi, Burim Istrefi, Leotrim Vojvoda, and Flamur Gashi willingly replied to a call from ISIS member and former leader of Albanians [within ISIS] Lavdrim Muhaxheri to commit a terrorist act,” Bina-Rugova read, adding that the defendants communicated with Muhaxheri through Telegram, an encrypted messaging app.
“After Muhaxheri contacted defendant Visar Ibishi through Telegram, he called on the defendant to carry out a terrorist attack on the football players and Israeli fans that had come to Shkoder on November 12, 2016,” Bina-Rugova continued. The match was initially scheduled to take place in Shkoder but was moved to Elbasan.
The prosecution is also accusing Arton Ahmeti and Lulzim Gashi for allegedly preparing terrorist acts in Kosovo against internationals or security institutions.
Meanwhile, Kenan Plakaj is accused of unauthorized importing, exporting, supplying, transporting or production of explosive substances, while Leotrim Musliu and Besart Peci are accused of illegal carrying of weapons.
All defendants plead not guilty with the exception of Arton Ahmeti, who confessed his guilt and who will receive his sentence at the end of the trial.
Although Ahmeti admitted his guilt, his attorney Zahide Gjonaj’s request to stop his detainment was refused. Initially the prosecution did not oppose the attorney’s request, but it was judge Hamdi Ibrahimi’s reminder of the serious crimes Ahmeti is accused of that led Bina-Rugova to oppose the defense’s request.
Defending attorneys have 30 days to submit their requests for dropping the accusations and opposing the evidence.
Earlier this month, Muhaxheri, a high-ranking ISIS member in charge of Kosovo and Albanian fighters, was reported dead by local media and family members. He was reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Syria.