LI family seeks prosecutions in 1999 murders in Serbia

Fifteen years after his three older brothers were executed and their bodies left in a mass grave in Serbia in 1999, Fatose Bytyqi of Hampton Bays is still determined to have their killers brought to justice. He was interviewed on July 1, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

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Officials and family members called for the prosecution of those involved in the killing of three Hampton Bays brothers -- shot in the backs of their heads in Serbia and buried in a mass grave -- a day before the 15th anniversary of the murder.

Ahmet Bytyqi said he does not stop thinking about his sons and their murders.

"I get up, I go to sleep, they're in my mind," the 68-year-old from Hampton Bays said after a news conference inside Southampton Town Hall Monday. "All the time's the same. You can never get away."

He added, "I cannot believe this is happening in the 21st century."

Another brother, Fatose Bytyqi, has made 50 trips to the Serbian capital of Belgrade to press for action on the case since his brothers went missing in 1999.

"My brothers were kidnapped and executed, and no one has been brought to justice," said Fatose Bytyqi, 35 of Hampton Bays. "It's been 15 years me and my family have been waiting."

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Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi had joined 400 other Albanian-Americans in April 1999 to fight Serbian forces. After the war ended six weeks later, the brothers were arrested for accidentally crossing into Serbia.

They were jailed until July 8, 1999, when a judge ordered their release. Instead of being freed, though, the brothers were taken to a special operations training facility and executed.

Ylli was 25; Agron, 23 and Mehmet, 21. All were born in Chicago to Ahmet and Bahrije Bytyqi, ethnic Albanians who later moved to Long Island.

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No one has been convicted in connection with the brothers' deaths, despite calls from the U.S. government, human rights groups and the family.

Former Ambassador Robert Barry said Monday that it's a matter of political will on the part of Serbians to charge those who ordered the executions.

"They know who is responsible. We know who is responsible. The question is, is the Serbian government going to lift the curtain of silence surrounding this case?" said Barry, who is advising the family.

Barry said the top person responsible is the training camp commander, Goran "Guri" Radosavljevic, who has political ties to the ruling party.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) introduced a resolution last year saying the Serbian government should make the case a top priority. It also says the brothers' case should remain a "significant factor" in U.S. and Serbian relations.

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"It is important that these American citizens' lives not be left unavenged," he said.

Bishop's resolution currently has eight co-sponsors from both major parties.

Barry said Serbia's current application to join the European Union is important, because it gives the family some leverage. He said Bishop's resolution has made the Serbian government pay attention.

Asked if he had hope of movement on the case, he said, "If I didn't have hope, I wouldn't volunteer my time."

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