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06. 02. 2019.

Author: Filip Rudic, Die Morina ???source???: BIRN

Kosovo Man Confesses to Tearing Down Journalists’ Memorial

A Kosovo man has told police he tore down a plaque commemorating two Serb journalists who disappeared while reporting on the war in 1998 - the seventh time that the memorial has been vandalised.

Kosovo Police said on Wednesday that they have identified a suspect who confessed to tearing down a plaque commemorating Serb journalists Djuro Slavuj and Ranko Perenic, who disappeared on a road between Orahovac/Rahovec and Velika Hoca/Hoca e Madhe while travelling to do a report in August 1998.

The police told BIRN that the man, who they identified only by the initials S.B., was interviewed in the presence of defence counsel on Tuesday.

“During the interview he admitted that he had damaged and displaced the plaque while he was working with an excavator near the location,” said Lirije Podrimaj, a spokesperson for Kosovo Police in the Gjakova/Djakovica region.

On the state prosecutor’s orders, the suspect was released while the case is pending, Podrimaj added.

The Journalists’ Association of Serbia, UNS, identified the man as Shaban Berisha in a statement on Wednesday, citing a police report to which the association had access.

UNS placed the plaque at the site of the two journalists’ disappearance in May 2018. The association has marked the site seven times over the course of six years, but the plaque was torn down each time.

The president of the Kosovo branch of UNS, Budimir Nicic, said that the association will put up the plaque again after the latest act of vandalism.

“We are not giving up on our demands for truth about the fate of our colleagues,” Nicic told BIRN, adding that UNS expects the police to also find the perpetrators who tore down the memorial plaque the past six times.

Nicic said that he and a colleague found the torn-down plaque on Sunday some 20 metres from where it had been installed.

Junk, debris and animal bones were strewn around at the place where the plaque originally stood, he added.

Nicic said that this was the first time the memorial has been taken down with an excavator, which he said was evident from the vehicle’s track marks on the ground.

The OSCE mission in Kosovo also condemned the removal of the plaque, saying it was “saddened to read that the plaque has been removed and destroyed for the seventh time in the past five years”.

“These acts serve to undermine inter-community trust and dialogue, as well as the efforts to remember journalists who were lost while exercising their profession,” the OSCE mission added.

Radio Pristina journalists Perenic and Slavuj were kidnapped on August 21, 1998, while travelling towards Zociste monastery to do a report.

UNS is campaigning for the prosecution of those responsible for the disappearances or killings of Perenic, Slavuj and 12 other journalists – seven of them Albanians and seven Serbs – in Kosovo from 1998 to 2005.

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