Lutfi Dervishi, the owner of a Kosovo clinic accused of organ trafficking, said he has been libeled by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), an international administrative body that oversees the country. Dervishi made the comments in an interview with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) in Kosovo.
Nine people including Dervishi are currently on trial in the case, on charges of organized crime, unlawful exercise of medical activities, and human trafficking. According to the indictment, 30 illegal kidney transplants took place in Dervishi’s Medicus clinic outside of Kosovo’s capital Pristina.
In Thursday’s interview, Dervishi confirmed that his clinic performed kidney transplants, but denied any wrongdoing. He rejected the prosecution’s claim that he was the leader of an organized crime group that lured victims with false promises of payment and sold their organs to wealthy recipients.
“We had organ transplants at the Medicus Clinic. But, what is written in the indictment is nonsense. It was our aim to create a centre where people can have transplant surgery without having to travel abroad and spend a lot of money,” said Dervishi.
The prosecution said Medicus Clinic patientscame from poor neighborhoods of Moscow and Istanbul, as well as from Moldova and Kazakhstan. They were lured with false promises of receiving up to €15,000 (US$19,700) for a kidney.
“Even after so many court sessions, nothing up until now could have been proven by the prosecution, that we had any links with the world outside Kosovo, to organize such crimes as they allege...The prosecution is libeling us,” Dervishi told BIRN.
According to Dervishi, most of the names mentioned in the indictment came from a list of passengers who landed on the Pristina airport. Dervishi alleges that the prosecution wrongly assumed that these people were headed for the Medicus clinic.
Among the accused is a Turkish doctor, Yusuf Sonmez, nicknamed the “Doctor Vampire” or "Dr. Frankenstein" by the Turkish press. Sonmez is wanted by Interpol for human trafficking and illegal immigration, in addition to organ trafficking. Sonmez was arrested in Turkey in January 2011, but released on bail. Due to Turkey’s extradition policy, Sonmez cannot be extradited to Kosovo.
An Israeli citizen of Turkish origin, Moshe Harel, was allegedly in charge of finding donors and recipients, as well as handling the money.
Prosecutors in Turkey asked for a 171 year sentence for Sonmez for the illegal transplants he performed at the Medicus clinic. Dervishi praised his Turkish colleague as a “real specialist in his profession.” He also expressed his opinion that it is unfair to call “someone who saved hundreds of lives ‘Doctor Vampire.’”
Earlier this year, Russian authorities confirmed that two Russian citizens were identified as victims in the Medicus case. The EULEX prosecution requested legal help from Russia, and asked that the two Russian victims testify. In addition, a Canadian citizen who received a kidney at the clinic is expected to testify.
The investigation into the Medicus clinic started in November 2008. A report by the Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Dick Marty also points to war crimes and organ harvesting allegedly committed at the Medicus clinic by the Kosovo Liberation Army against Serbs in 1999.