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HomeBalkansKosovo Ex-President Hashim Thaci Pleads Not Guilty to War Crimes

Kosovo Ex-President Hashim Thaci Pleads Not Guilty to War Crimes

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Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He went on trial on Monday with three co-defendants, accused of killing nearly 100 people and other atrocities including enforced disappearances.

The allegations date from Kosovo’s independence war against Serbia in 1998-99 in which more than 10,000 died.

Mr Thaci was co-founder of a group fighting for independence and is regarded as a hero in Kosovo.

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was set up in the early 1990s as a militant group of ethnic Albanians, in what was then a province of Serbia, and during the war is alleged to have carried out attacks on the region’s ethnic Serb minority.

When Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, Mr Thaci became its first prime minister and later president, but resigned in 2020 to face the charges in The Hague.

Victims and human rights groups hope his trial – at a special court known as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers – will reveal what happened to some of the thousands of people who vanished during the Kosovo conflict.

According to the court’s indictment, the crimes took place in more than 100 locations in Kosovo and in northern Albania, where Serb civilians were allegedly detained and mistreated or murdered.

The trial began with opening statements from the prosecution. Judges will also hear from defence lawyers and a representative of Kosovo’s war victims’ council.

Mr Thaci is being tried alongside the former speaker of Kosovo’s parliament Kadri Veseli, former KLA spokesman Jakup Krasniqi and former KLA commander Rexhep Selimi.

All four co-defendants, who were associates both during and after the war, deny any wrongdoing.

“I understand the indictment and I am fully not guilty,” Mr Thaci said at the trial.

The independence movement in Kosovo began after Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s decision in 1989 to strip the province of its self-governing status.

Tensions led to full-scale war in 1998 which only ended after a Nato air campaign against Serbia prompted its forces to leave the province.

Kosovo declared its independence unilaterally in 2008, and was recognised by 99 out of 193 UN member states but not Serbia.

In its first case, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers jailed for 26 years KLA commander Salih Mustafa, who was in charge of a prison where torture took place. He is appealing against the conviction.

In 2007-12 former Kosovan Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was tried twice and acquitted at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Source: BBC

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