Nine people already on trial in Kosovo for organ trafficking face new charges that were filed by the prosecutor earlier today. According to the earlier indictment, they were involved in 30 illegal kidney transplants that were performed at the notorious Medicus clinic near Pristina. Saying that he now has more evidence, prosecutor Jonathan Ratel has added additional counts of fraud, grievous bodily harm, and falsification of documents.
The clinic was shut down in 2008, during the initial investigation. Seven residents of Kosovo, including the clinic’s owner and his son, are present for the trial. Two foreigners are being tried in absencia because they have previously been arrested on similar crimes in Turkey.
The prosecution seeks to prove that poor donors from Turkey, Russia, Moldova and Kazakhstan were promised 15,000 euros to come to Kosovo and sell a kidney to a rich patient.
The rumors of illegal organ trafficking have swirled in the Pristina area for years. According to those rumors, dozens — as many as 300 — Serbs were allegedly kidnapped in 1999 so that their organs could be removed and sold. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was accused of capturing and transporting the victims.
However, rumors are not proof. In 2010, a BBC report by Nick Thorpe summed up the situation: “Three parallel international investigations, by war crimes investigators from Serbia, the European Union, and the Council of Europe, have failed to uncover any evidence that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) trafficked the organs of captives.”
A key witness in the current trial is 66-year-old Canadian Raul Fain, who testified today that he paid $105,000 to receive the kidney of a 45-year-old Russian woman. He was told by doctors that he might wait as long as 12 years for a kidney match in Canada.
It’s illegal to buy human organs in Canada, but it isn’t illegal to leave the country to buy them. As a witness for the prosecution, Fain has provided the clearest description yet of how illegal organ trafficking was conducted at the Kosovo clinic.
[surgery photo courtesy John Asselin, U.S. Air Force and Wikipedia Commons]