January 12, 2011 - 18:42 AMT
“Black Surgeon” Yusuf Ercin Sonmez taken into custody in Istanbul

A surgeon known as the “Turkish Frankenstein” was arrested on suspicion of illegally removing organs in Kosovo and selling them to wealthy recipients. “Black Surgeon” Yusuf Ercin Sonmez was taken into custody Tuesday in Istanbul for his alleged involvement in an organ-trafficking ring linked to senior Kosovan officials.

Sonmez was named last month in a Council of Europe report that accused Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, of running an organized crime ring for the "forcible extraction of human organs for the purposes of trafficking" from Serbian prisoners.

The doctor was repeatedly arrested in Turkey on suspicion of illegally removing organs from impoverished Turks and selling them to wealthy foreigners. He allegedly moved away to perform illegal transplants and last year was linked to an organ-trafficking ring in Azerbaijan.

Sonmez, who previously spoke out in support of legalizing the trade in human organs, denies claims of trafficking and said all his kidney donors signed consent forms.

The trade came to light in 2008 after a Turkish man, Yilmaz Altun, fainted at Pristina's airport, in the Kosovan capital, and told UN police his kidney had just been removed. Police raided Sonmez’s Medicus clinic, located near the airport, and found that an Israeli man had been given the Turk’s kidney.

The former permanent secretary at the ministry of health, Ilir Rrecaj, and a professor at Pristina University Hospital were among the seven Kosovans charged in the Medicus case.

An EU judge was hearing the case in Kosovo and has until the end of the month to move it to a trial. The case was being heard in an EU rule-of-law mission in the country, which is recognized by only 72 of the UN’s 198 member nations, NewsCore reported.