UN tribunal reverses contempt of court conviction of former Kosovo minister

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that it was reversing the conviction of Astrit Haraqija, who was sentenced last December to five months’ imprisonment, but affirming the conviction and sentence for Bajrush Morina, who was given three months in jail.Mr. Haraqija and Mr. Morina had both appealed their contempt of court convictions for intimidating a protected witness in the trial of the former Kosovo Albanian military leader Ramush Haradinaj and others. Prosecutors had also appealed, asking for the sentences to be increased.The ICTY appeals chamber found that the trial chamber had given too much weight to untested evidence, largely based on “double or even triple hearsay,” when it concluded that Mr. Haraqija had influence over Mr. Morina and had instructed him to commit the crime of contempt. But it rejected Mr. Morina’s grounds of appeal.The two men had been on provisional release since earlier this year, having already served the duration of the sentences imposed by the trial chamber.In 2008, the ICTY, which is based in The Hague, acquitted Mr. Haradinaj and his co-accused Idriz Balaj of charges they were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo 10 years earlier. Another co-accused, Lahi Brahimaj, was sentenced to six years’ jail for the cruel treatment and torture of two persons. 23 July 2009The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today overturned the conviction of Kosovo’s ex-minister of culture, youth and sports for contempt of court for trying to intimidate a trial witness, but upheld the conviction on the same charge of one of his political advisers.

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