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Attempted bombing Trial in failed attack on Zurich-based paper

The Kosovo-Albanian newspaper Bota Sot as it appeared in 2001 when it faced charges under Switzerland's anti-racism law of inciting hatred and helping to precipitate ethnic Albanian rebellion in Macedonia

(Keystone)

Fifteen years after a grenade hidden inside a package failed to detonate as planned, the alleged perpetrator of the attempted 2002 attack on an Albanian-language newspaper in Zurich faces trial.

The attempted bombing of the Zurich-based Kosovo newspaper Bota Sotexternal link took place more than two weeks before the incident was finally revealed by a law firm representing the newspaper in mid-October.

Law firm Bratschi Emch & Partner said a powerful, Russian-made hand grenade was concealed in a package at the newspaper's office in Zurich on September 27 but did not detonate as it was supposed to when the package was opened. Zurich police then defused it and Swiss federal prosecutors opened an investigation.

The secretary-general of Reporters Without Bordersexternal link, Robert Ménard, said at the time that the attack “could have cost the lives of Bota Sot journalists" and noted that one of the newspaper's reporters, Bekim Kastrati, was murdered a year earlier.

Less than a week before the law firm issued its statement, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo had arrested three people in connection with Kastrati’s killing.

A belated trial

But it would take nearly 15 more years and a DNA analysis to come up with an arrest in connection with the attempted newspaper attack.

The defendant, a dual Macedonian-Swiss national about 40 years old, remained unidentified in keeping with Swiss privacy laws. He was involved in a fight at a Zurich facility then arrested at his workplace at the end of January.

He was initially detained at a Bern prison then transferred to a cell in Zurich for the trail that opened this week.

He told the Federal Criminal Court external linkin Lausanne on Wednesday that he acted alone and had only wanted to scare the journalists, but that he did not intend to kill anyone and was convinced the grenade didn’t work.

But authorities said the mechanism for blowing up the grenade fail to function – and the deaths of several people were averted – only because the package was opened laterally. And the newspaper’s editor-in-chief said it had received many threats before the parcel bomb was sent to editorial staff.

The defendant explained that he sent the grenade because he was emotional after seeing a documentary film about the massacres of the civilian population during the war in Kosovo. A verdict is expected on September 20.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/jmh

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