Kosovo Albanian triple murder suspect released without charge

PRISTINA, Jul 26, 2000 -- (AFP) An ethnic Albanian accused of carrying out one of Kosovo's bloodiest post-war attacks on Serbian civilians has been released without charge, a senior UN policeman told AFP Tuesday.

Afrim Zeqiri was arrested after three Serbs, including a four-year-old child, were shot dead in Cernica, southeast Kosovo, on May 28 by a single gunman armed with an assault rifle.

Serbian witnesses claimed Zeqiri, who they knew by sight, was the killer and he has been detained at the US military base in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, since May 29, when he handed himself in to UN police.

An international judge appointed by Kosovo's UN administration decided to free Zeqiri after an ethnic Albanian prosecutor declined to pursue the case against him, Gary Carrell, the regional commander of the UN police in southeast Kosovo, told AFP.

Zeqiri's car, identified by its number plate, was seen leaving the scene of the crime, investigators said in May. On June 22 the international judge in charge of the investigation heard evidence from seven Albanians that Zeqiri was not at the scene.

The Cernica attack was only the latest in a series of attacks on Serbian civilians which have taken place in Kosovo since the arrival in the province of the KFOR peacekeeping force last June.

The four year old, his uncle and a 60-year-old man joined the list of more than 500 people murdered in the province since the end of its 1998-1999 civil war. Only a tiny fraction of the murders have led to a conviction.

Carrell said the hatred between Serbs and Albanians made it difficult to investigate serious crimes.

"On the rare occasions that we find Albanians willing to testify against Albanians and Serbs willing to testify against Serbs they come under great pressure from their communities," he said.

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