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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK

Fears grow for Kosovo intellectuals

Leading Kosovars are being targeted as others flee

Fears are growing for intellectuals still in Kosovo after the reported summary execution of five leading Kosovo Albanians.

Nato says Serb forces appear to be targeting leading figures in Kosovo in an effort to weaken the resistance of the Kosovo Albanian population.

Kosovo: Special Report
The five were reportedly executed in the Kosovo capital Pristina after attending the funeral of a human rights lawyer Bajram Kelmendi on Sunday.

Bajram Kelmendi and his two sons were themselves abducted and executed last week.

Peace negotiator

The five reported killed include Fehmi Agani, a 66-year-old sociology professor, who was appointed chief negotiator of the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK) when peace talks began last spring.

A founder member of the party and a close friend of its leader Ibrahim Rugova, Mr Agani was a member of the Kosovo negotiating team at Rambouillet.

The DLK has been seeking a peaceful solution to the problems in Kosovo.

Mr Rugova and other leading political figures are said to be in hiding.

Other victims reported to have been killed on Sunday are Alush Gashi, an adviser to Mr Rugova, Din Mehmeti, a writer, Baton Haxhiu, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Koha Ditore, and another unnamed intellectual.

Baton Haxhiu was an outspoken critic of the Serbs' treatment Kosovo Albanians, and of the international community's refusal to intervene over past abuses in the region.

He strongly favoured Nato action in Kosovo and had been seen in recent days wearing a tee-shirt which the slogan 'Nato Air - Just Do It'.

Koha Ditore was the most influential Albanian language newspaper in Kosovo.

Its journalists have been briefly detained in the past and it has incurred huge fines for articles it has published.

Huge fines

On 22 March, the newspaper and its editor-in-chief were convicted for publishing information that "incited hatred between nationalities", according to article 67 of Serbia's controversial new law on Public Information.

[ image: Baton Haxhiu: copyright Human Rights Watch/SABA]
Baton Haxhiu: copyright Human Rights Watch/SABA
The paper was fined 420,000 dinars ($26,800) and Baton Haxhiu personally was fined 110,000 dinars ($7,200).

The article was a statement by the leading negotiator from the Kosovo Liberation Army at the Rambouillet peace talks.

The newspaper was represented by Bajram Kelmendi.

Publication has been suspended and its staff, including publisher Veton Surroi, are reportedly in hiding.

Reports suggesting Mr Surroi may have been killed have been denied.

Dukagjin Gorani, editor of the English language version of the paper, said on 24 March: "In such a situation, the publication of Koha Ditore is a luxury phenomenon, a quirk.

"Any kind of news that you can get is like a breath of fresh air. But there is no distribution, and people are on the move. We cannot get the paper to the people.

"In any case, now it is simply a matter of priorities: how to preserve yourself, how to find shelter in the coming days."

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