Murder of Shefki Popova: Where are the evidences from investigation?

Source/Author: UNS, Jelena L. Petković
Source/Photo: Photo: Pixabay

BELGRADE, 21.12.2017. – On the 10 September 2000, on the doorstep in the hometown of Vucitrn, a famous Rilindja journalist Shefki Popova was murdered. The crime was prepared carefully. The Journalists Association of Serbia (UNS), while investigating this murder came to the information that the investigation made by UNMIK was distracted, and after the arrival of EULEX this case just “disappeared”. The family appealed, the Association asked questions, but even with clear indications of the motives of the murder, the investigation was stopped. The killers are still at large.

UNS Dossier find out that the UNMIK Police took from Shefki Popova apartment everything that could be considered as evidence, including his briefcase, that well-known journalist always had with him. And which, according to some opinions, could contain some important documents, a roadmap for the investigation.

The prosecutor of Basic Court in Mitrovica, Njazi Rexha, two times asked for urgent help from the Police (first time on the 5th October 2000, and second time on 23 March 2004) and in relation to this case (PPN 306/2000). Police didn’t respond on both requests.

With arrival of EULEX in 2008, the case of Popova “disappears” and EU Mission on this very matter answered to UNS (last time in September 2017) with “No information available”. With such an answer we are questioning what has happened with the documents taken from the house of Popova?

The murderer entered the building in which Popova was living, with the book where he hidden a gun. He waited for the journalist to return home (at 22:15). The witnesses saw two men fleeing, UNS learned.

Popova died a short time after he was taken to the closest hospital, at that time under the administration of the United Arab Emirates peacekeepers.

For the family, there is no doubt that Sefki Popova was killed because he was “the authority of the pen.”

Political murders

Popova was active in local politics. UNS sources are emphasizing the fact that he was killed just before local elections, when participant of these elections in Vucitrn was reputable candidate of Social Democratic Party of Kosovo led by Kaqusha Jashari. Candidates against were from AAK Party of Ramush Haradinaj and PDK Party of Hashim Thaqi.

At that time, in the struggle for power, many political murders happened, and most of the murdered people were those from Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of Ibrahim Rugova, with whom Popova was close.

LDK, on the local elections in October 2000 was the winner with 58 percent of votes, and 504 out of 869 Assembly seats in Local parliaments, leaving way behind Thaqi’s party with 27.3 percent of support.

Several members of LDK were attacked at that time. OSCE officially stated then that they are researching around such 20 incidents, but they never found out who the perpetrators are, explaining “it is very difficult to separate politically motivated attacks from those that are not”. However, three days after the murder of Popova, international police, KFOR and OSCE established the group for protection of the candidates on elections.

Ajeti called on the authorities 

Murder of Popova took place after the attempt of murder of Serbian journalist Valentina Čukić, the editor of the programme in Serbian language program Radio Kontakt (June 2000) in Pristina. But only after the barbarian murder of Popova, additional protection for journalists was considered.

The murder of Sefki Popova was a shock. Those that knew him are saying that he was a good man who was not in any argument with anyone. As per UNS discovery, numerous texts and appeals were written to enlightened the murder of Shefki Popova, by the young journalist of “Bota Sot” Bardul Ajeti. Ajeti was killed in 2005.

Hope into the Special Court

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest journalist organization, protested for the brutal murder of Popova and called for all the warring factions in Kosovo to respect the freedom of the press and stop attacking journalists. IFJ also warned that the murder of Rilindja journalist could lead to further attacks. After this crime, two other journalists were killed.

In the OSCE poll, in December 2001, the 78 percent of Kosovo journalists report that they do not feel free to conduct an investigative journalism without fear of threat or retaliation.

For the family of Sefki Popova, as well as many others, the Special Court on War Crimes in Kosovo is the only hope to come to the truth.

The power of hidden forces

– The killings of two Kosovo journalists, Sefki Popova and Bekim Kastrati, as well as other cases of threats to journalists during the investigation of corruption, crime or drug trafficking, warn of the power hidden forces in Kosovo. “A free journalist in Kosovo is a dead journalist,” says a local reporter. But this is not just censorship by killing that threatens media freedom in Kosovo – even in a situation where two journalists were killed, but the fact that such things can happen. Intimidation of journalists facilitates the control of newspapers and broadcasters; the OSCE said in a report in June of 2002.

Violence after peace the rally

Twelve days after the killing of Sefki Popova, on 22nd September 2000, protests against political and interethnic violence were organized in Pristina and six other cities. But, within 48 hours, at least four murders were registered in Kosovo (two victims were known and prominent figures). After this series of murders, it has been established that violence in Kosovo cannot be stopped by public events, but by effective police force. Journalists still do not know who the killers and kidnappers are of the 14 of their colleagues, nor why the police and the prosecution did not do their job.