Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on Monday pleaded not guilty to 10 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity as his trial opened at a special court in The Hague.
Allegations of persecution, murder, torture and forced disappearance of people stem from the 1998-99 insurgency that eventually brought independence from Serbia and made him a hero among compatriots.
Thaci and three co-defendants, all former close associates in the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and later in peacetime politics, all pleaded not guilty shortly after hearings got underway.
“I understand the indictment and I am fully not guilty,” Thaci said in court.
More than 13,000 people, the majority of them members of Kosovo’s 90% ethnic Albanian majority, are believed to have died during the insurgency, when it was still a province of Serbia under then-strongman president Slobodan Milosevic.
The trial, conducted by international judges and prosecutors, began with opening statements by the prosecution followed by defence lawyers and a representative of Kosovo’s war Victims Council over the ensuing three days.
Thaci, 54, resigned as president shortly after his indictment and was transferred to detention in The Hague.