A Kosovo court has sentenced five doctors for up to eight years in prison for involvement in an international organ trafficking ring.
A panel of two EU and one Kosovo judges gave Lutfi Dervishi, an ethnic Albanian and prominent urologist, the harshest term of eight years in prison for “organised crime and human trafficking” on Monday.
His son Arban Dervishi was sentenced to seven years and three months for extracting kidneys from poor donors who were lured by financial promises.
A third defendant, Sokol Hajdini, was sentenced to three years in jail for causing grievous bodily harm. Two others received suspended sentences, while two were freed, including former Kosovo health minister Ilir Rrecaj.
The defendants can appeal the verdicts.
The indictment says that at least 23 illegal kidney transplants were carried out at the clinic in the Kosovo capital in 2008.
Police raided the clinic after a Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport waiting for a flight back to Istanbul after having had a kidney removed.
The donors were recruited from poor Eastern European and Central Asian countries who were promised about $19,540 for their organs, while recipients would pay up to $131,000 each.
The recipients were mainly Israelis.
The indictment names Israeli national Moshe Harel as the mastermind of a network for recruiting donors and finding recipients, while Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez is said to have performed organ removal surgery at the clinic.
Sonmez is also indicted in Turkey on similar charges.
But the two were not among those on trial in Pristina as they were not available to the court.
Kosovo war link
The case is being tried by EULEX, the European rule of law mission in Kosovo, set up to help the local judiciary handle sensitive cases after the territory declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Prosecutor Johnathan Ratel had requested testimony from Dick Marty, the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on alleged organ trafficking during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
But the request was rejected by the procedural board of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
In a 2011 report, Marty said there were “credible, convergent indications” that the Medicus case was linked to war-time organ trafficking.
Marty had alleged that senior commanders of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), including current prime minister Hashim Thaci, had been involved in organised crime and organ trafficking during and after the
The report set out claims that organs were taken from prisoners, many of them Serbs, held by the independence-seeking KLA rebels in Albania in the late 1990s.
Both Kosovo and Albania denied the accusations and rejected the report.