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Defence lawyers say Thaci did not control KLA guerillas

2023-04-04T08:50:05Z

Lawyers for Kosovo’s former president Hashim Thaci said on Tuesday that he did not control the guerilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) at the time of the war crimes charges against him, and said any such crimes were the result of uncontrolled local activity.

Thaci and three co-defendants face 10 charges of persecution, murder, torture and forced disappearance of people during and shortly after the 1998-99 insurgency that eventually brought Kosovo independence from Serbia and made him a hero among many compatriots at home and abroad.

“Hashim Thaci did not control the KLA, the zone commanders did,” lawyer Gregory Kehoe said on the second day of Thaci’s trial at a special court in The Hague.

On Monday prosecutors said Thaci and the other three principal leaders of the KLA waged a violent campaign targeting political opponents, as well as minority ethnic Serbs and Roma to gain full control. Hundreds of their alleged victims were imprisoned across Kosovo in terrible conditions and 102 were killed, according to the indictment. Most victims were members of Kosovo’s 90% ethnic Albanian majority, prosecutors said.

The KLA started as a guerilla organisation but in peacetime its leaders largely took over politics in the Balkan country. All four men on trial deny the charges against them.

More than 13,000 people, the majority of them Kosovo Albanians, are believed to have died during the insurgency, when Kosovo was still a province of Serbia under then-strongman President Slobodan Milosevic.

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Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci attends his war crimes trial in The Hague, Netherlands April 3, 2023. Koen van Weel/Pool via REUTERS

Former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) officers Jakup Krasniqi and Kadri Veseli attend the war crimes trial in The Hague, Netherlands April 3, 2023. Koen van Weel/Pool via REUTERS

Supporters of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci protest on the first day of his war crimes trial, in The Hague, Netherlands, April 3, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Supporters of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci protest on the first day of his war crimes trial, in The Hague, Netherlands, April 3, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
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