Issue 8, Articles 10-11, 7 August 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.

PARAMILITARIES DENIED. The controversial Albanian-language
newspaper Dita in the Kosovan capital Pristina has defended its decision to
publish a photo
including what it claimed were two Serbian Orthodox priests in
Yugoslav army uniforms and allegations that the two `priests' blessed Yugoslav
soldiers after they had committed `atrocities' in last year's conflict with
Kosovar Albanian fighters. Father SAVA JANJIC, a Serbian monk based in
Kosovo, described the paper's allegations as `completely false', claiming the
paper had wrongly identified the two men and adding that the paper had
thereby endangered the lives of `innocent priests'. Amid calls for Dita to be
permanently shut down, the paper's editor-in-chief denied to Keston that
publishing such material provoked an attack a week later on a Serbian
Orthodox priest and two theology students (see separate KNS article).


Monday 7 August 2000

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The controversial Albanian-language newspaper Dita published a group photo
of 22 people in Yugoslav army uniform on 4 July. Among them were two
bearded men, whom the paper identified as the priests of Partes and Gnjilane
(Gjilan in Albanian) although the paper did not name them or give their
addresses (which it did give for two other Serbs shown in the photo). Dita's
editor-in-chief BLERIM STAVILECI told Keston from Pristina on 3 August
that the men the paper identified as priests were shown standing next to
MILIVOJE JANKOVIC, a commander of the Black Tigers, a Serbian
paramilitary group. `The pop [priest] of Partes, together with the commander
Milivoje Jankovic - Mija and the pop of Gjilan, after atrocities and massacres
had been committed, blessed the criminals and sang psalms to pardon their
sins,' the paper claimed.

Father Sava, a close aide to Bishop ARTEMIJE of Raska and Prizren, told
Keston, `The accusations against our priests in Dita's article are completely
false. Our priests from Gnjilane and Partes immediately issued a statement in
which they denied any connection with paramilitaries and reaffirmed their
position against violence. They said that the two persons falsely identified in
the photograph published by Dita as our priests are not Serbian Orthodox
priests and do not look like any priest from our diocese. Many of Milosevic's
paramilitaries had beards which could allow some Albanians to think that they
might have been priests.' Father Sava added that the photo was unclear,
allowing mistakes in identification.

However, Stavileci was adamant. `The article was written according to the
witnesses and testimonies that our correspondent gathered in Gjilan,' he told
Keston. `The citizens have testimony in KFOR and UNMIK police for several
days and weeks but the response is as usual: "We will see and verify".'
Stavileci claimed that KFOR had failed to take any action over the allegations
`because its mandate is unclear and it hesitates to undertake such a move
toward jailing the suspected war criminals', while the UNMIK police is
`inefficient and unable to meet its duties'.

Stavileci added that neither of the accused had contacted Dita to protest the
publication of the photo or the accompanying text. `If their reactions would
have arrived in our newspaper we would have published them.' But Father Sava
stated that the real priests of Partes and Gnjilane had made protests to the
international authorities. `Our priests requested the UN authorities and KFOR
to scientifically
examine the photo and prove their claim of innocence. The bishop supported
his priests and strongly protested against Dita's unfounded accusations.'

Father Sava resents any suggestion that Orthodox priests endorsed violence
during the interethnic conflict in Kosovo. `The very idea that any of our priests
would "go with paramilitaries and bless the murders" is not only wrong but is
an outright unsult to our Church which has many times condemned the
Milosevic regime, before the war, during the war and after it,' he told Keston.
`On the contrary, we have examples of our monks and priests who helped
Albanians in their suffering and offered them protection. For example in
Decani, where 150 Albanian civilians found refuge in the monastery. The
priests in Decani risked their lives to protect their Albanian neighbours.'

As a direct consequence of its 4 July feature, Dita was fined by the OSCE's
Temporary Media Commissioner in Kosovo, DOUGLAS DAVIDSON, for
publishing the `clearly identifiable photograph of various individuals, that
included personal details about where two of those individuals currently reside'.
The OSCE declared that this `breached the regulation which prohibits the
publishing of information which
could put an individual's life or security in danger'. After failing to pay the fine
Dita was ordered closed on 27 July, an order the paper defied.

ROLAND BLESS, the OSCE spokesman, told Keston from Pristina on 3
August that the fine was imposed on Dita not just for the publication of the
addresses of the two named individuals, but for the `entire publication' of the
photo and the article. He added that the 12 July attack made no difference to
the decision to impose the fine. He declined comment on whether the two
bearded men identified by the paper as priests had been involved with Serbian
paramilitaries saying, �that is a matter for the judicial authorities.'

Speaking to Keston by telephone from Pristina on 27 July, GAZMEND PULA,
the chairman of the Kosovo Helsinki Committee (a member of the Vienna-
based International Helsinki Federation), declined to comment on the
allegations against the two `priests'. However, he declared that his Committee
believed that any information people have on war crimes suspects should be
delivered to the international administrators in Kosovo `in accordance with
proper procedure'. `Coming out with names and addresses amounts to a wanted
list,' Pula declared. `This is dangerous for individuals and for the rule of law
and instigates very dangerous developments,' an apparent reference to the
killing of Topoljski. (END)

Monday 7 August 2000

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

On 12 July, a Serbian Orthodox priest DRAGAN KOJIC and two theology
students identified as ZVONKO and DRAGISA were wounded when their car
was attacked with automatic gunfire while they were travelling on the Klokot
to Vitina road near Gnjilane, which lies in southeast Kosovo. They were
returning from serving the liturgy. Kojic was injured in the shoulder, while
Zvonko and Dragisa suffered leg and kidney injuries respectively. Also in the
car at the time of the attack was Father Kojic's three-year-old child, who
escaped unharmed. The NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force said
international police found the three wounded men by the side of the road and
took them to the Camp Bondsteel US military base near Urosevac.

The attack was condemned by local Serbs, the Orthodox Church and
international officials. `I am not only shocked but deeply depressed that today
criminals chose religious men as their targets,' said BERNARD KOUCHNER,
head of Kosovo's United Nations-led administration, in a statement. `It is
totally unacceptable that this kind of revenge killing substitute itself for justice.'
ROLAND BLESS, the OSCE spokesman, declined to comment on the 12
July attack and whether it was linked to the Dita article, declaring that the
attack was the subject of an `ongoing investigation' by the police.

A statement from the Serbian National Council of Kosovo-Metohija
immediately condemned the attack and linked it to the Dita article of 4 July in
which Serbs from Gnjilane had been named as being responsible for `war
crimes' (see separate KNS article). The statement added that the two priests
from Gnjilane who the paper claimed had cooperated with Serbian paramilitary
forces were `completely
innocent'. The council went on to demand an urgent investigation into the
attack and specific measures to prevent Albanian language papers from
`rekindling hatred and causing violence'.

Father SAVA JANJIC, a close aide to Bishop ARTEMIJE of Raska and
Prizren, told Beta news agency on 12 July that he had called Dita `a
mujaheddin newspaper' during sessions of the Transitional Council of Kosovo
because of what he regarded as its public calls for the lynching of Kosovo
Serbs. He demanded that the paper be closed down. However, in his statement
to Keston News Service on 3 August, Dita's editor-in-chief BLERIM
STAVILECI rejected any linkage between the publication of the 4 July article
and photo and the 12 July attack on Father Kojic and the two students. (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.