Hague court begins trial for Kosovo's former president

Balkans
Tue, 4 Apr 2023 8:00 GMT
3 defendants, all former Kosovo Liberation Army commanders, deny allegations against, as does former Kosovar leader.
Hague court begins trial for Kosovo's former president

3 defendants, all former Kosovo Liberation Army commanders, deny allegations against, as does former Kosovar leader.

The trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who is charged with war crimes at a special court in The Hague, began on Monday.

Along with Thaci, former Parliament Speaker Kadri Veseli, former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) spokesman Jakup Krasniqi, and former KLA commander Rexhep Selimi are also being held in The Hague for war crimes they allegedly committed during the war.

The session started with an opening speech of the judiciary before all three defendants denied the charges against them.

Prosecutor Alex Whiting said that the case against the four former commanders is not related to the entire KLA. "This case does not aim to prosecute the KLA and does not blame all its members. Four people have been prosecuted. Most of the KLA members have nothing to do with the crimes on which the indictment is presented,'' he said.

Thaci told the court that he understood the accusations against him, but claimed complete innocence.

Veseli did the same, saying: "I express my dissatisfaction with the two-and-a-half year’s delay, but thank you, I am completely innocent.”

Krasniqi and Selimi also denied the accusations.

"I have nothing to do with what the prosecution has just read. I understand the accusation, but I disagree as I am not responsible for the charges. I am completely innocent," Krasniqi said.

The first session of three days will have opening speeches from the delegations.

The presentation of evidence to the court and hearing of the victims' relatives and defendants will begin next week.

The hearings are being broadcast live on the court's website in Albanian, Serbian, and English.

Kosovars from various European countries gathered in The Hague to chant slogans calling for the release of the KLA leaders.

According to judges and media reports, the trial is expected to last for years.

Prosecutors confirmed that they will need more than 700 working hours to question 320 witnesses.

They will also need additional time to question prosecution witnesses.

Presiding Judge Charles Smith asked prosecutors to reduce the number of witnesses.

Thaci, 52, is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

The three other defendants are also charged with murder, torture, inhumane treatment, and illegal detention.

Kosovo Specialist Chambers

The special court, also known as the Kosovo Special Chambers and Special Prosecutor's Office were established in The Hague in 2011.

It was established to investigate and prosecute the war crimes alleged to have been committed in Kosovo in 1998-2000. It consists of international judges and prosecutors.

Since the beginning of 2019, the special prosecutor's office has invited dozens of former KLA members to testify.

The first indictment against Thaci and the three other defendants, approved on Oct. 26, 2020, claims they were responsible for the deaths of 100 people.

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