Kosovo’s ex-president Thaci pleads not guilty at war crimes trial
Hashin Thaci, who resigned as president of Kosovo this month, on Monday declared that he was not guilty during his first hearing in a war crimes trial at a special court in The Hague.
“I plead not guilty on all counts,” said Thaci, head of the political wing of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA which fought Belgrade’s forces for independence in 1998-99.
He and several others are accused of a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.
Thaci and his closest ally and head of his Democratic Party, Kadri Veseli, as well as Kosovo politicians Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi, are allegedly responsible for nearly 100 murders.
Thaci stepped down as president on Thursday, a day after the court confirmed the indictment.
Kosovo was formerly a province of Serbia. The majority Albanians rebelled against Belgrade’s rule, and guerrilla attacks quickly expanded into a war, marked by the Serbian forces’ heavy-handed response.
Many Serbian politicians, police and army officers, including the late strongman leader Slobodan Milosevic, were tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY for atrocities in Kosovo.
However, the KLA was also accused of committing crimes against non-Albanians and Albanians deemed to be Serbian collaborators, but very few were sentenced by the ICTY and local courts.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC was established in 2015 under Kosovan laws but was set up in The Hague with international staff to minimize the intimidation of witnesses by influential defendants.
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