Six Plead Not-Guilty to Threatening BIRN’s Xharra

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Six defendants accused of waging a hate campaign in the media against BIRN Kosovo director Jeta Xharra have pleaded not guilty, though Sami Lushtaku did offer a qualified apology.

Lushtaku’s lawyer, Arianit Koci, told the court on Monday that his client “never intended to threaten Jeta Xharra… The indictment is extremely inaccurate”.

“General Lushtaku never intended to threaten Jeta Xharra, that’s why he publicly seeks her forgiveness,” Koci said.

According to the indictment, a campaign against Xharra was launched after Radio Television Kosovo broadcast an edition of BIRN’s TV programme, ‘Jeta ne Kosove’ (‘Life in Kosovo’,) dealing with alleged mismanagement in Skenderaj/Srbica where Lushtaku was mayor at the time.

Lushtaku is charged, along with Infopress’s former owner, Rexhep Hoti, former executive director Arizona Dibra, former editor-in-chief Avni Azemi and former journalists Rizah Hajdari and Qani Mehmeti, with making threats against Xharra and violating her rights in May and June of 2009.

“This had nothing in common with professional let alone ethical journalism but was merely aimed at tarnishing their victims’ reputations through defamation and silencing them through threats against their lives,” a EULEX special prosecutor, Maria Bamieh, said.

“The financial dependency of the newspaper on [the ruling] PDK [party] advertisements, as well as the staffing of Infopress with persons that were close to or direct members of the PDK formed the motive to pervert the right of freedom of the press and corrupt it in the most shameful way, with the intention of putting Jeta Xharra ‘out of business,’” she added.

BIRN Kosovo director Xharra said Infopress “intentionally misinterpreted me and my programme in order to spread hatred,” she told the court on Monday.

In 12 articles published by Infopress, Xharra was called a “Serbian spy”, a “professional bomb”, an “embassy slut” and subjected to other insults, the indictment says.

The defendants all pleaded not guilty.

Hoti, former owner of Infopress, accused the prosecution of “abuse of office”, saying he felt “embarrassed and insulted after the biased presentation [by the prosecution]”.

Dibra, former executive director of the daily, said “she had no clue why she was in court… I never dealt with any editorial politics at Infopress.”

The other defendants also asked the court to dismiss the indictment.

Xharra continued her testimony on Tuesday, commenting on the articles published in Infopress.

Referring to the article “A programme which terrorized Drenica” written by Qani Mehmeti, Xharra said “it was a call for a lynch”.

She also mentioned an interview given to the daily by mayor Lushtaku on June 2 of 2009, entitled: “Lushtaku: Jeta Xharra – servant to the Serbian Police”.

The trial is due to continue on Wednesday.