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Former Kosovo president Thaci pleads not guilty to war crimes

2023-04-03T08:03:00Z

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 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.

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