Ex-Kosovo president Hashim Thaci to appear in court Monday

International

Kosovo president Hashim Thaci addresses the nation as he announced his resignation to face war crimes charges in Kosovo capital Pristina on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Thaci, a guerrilla leader during Kosovo’s war for independence, has resigned in order to face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity issued by at a special court based in The Hague, Netherlands. Thaci announced his resignation at a news conference on Thursday. He said he was taking the step “to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo.” (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Hashim Thaci, who resigned as Kosovo’s president to face charges including murder, torture and persecution, will make his first courtroom appearance before a judge at a special court in the Netherlands on Monday, the court announced Friday.

Thaci, 52, served as a guerrilla leader during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia in the late 1990s, before rising to political prominence in the aftermath of the conflict that killed more than 10,000 people.

An international prosecutor has indicted Thaci and other former guerilla leaders on 10 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his leadership of fighters with the Kosovo Liberation Army who are accused of illegally imprisoning, abusing and murdering captured opponents and perceived traitors during the war.

Thaci insists he is innocent.

Back in Kosovo officials of the Special Prosecutor’s Office raided his house near the capital Pristina and those of the other people indicted.

At the court appearance Monday, a pre-trial judge will make sure Thaci’s rights are respected and that he understands the charges, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court said in a statement.

Thaci stood down as Kosovo’s president on Thursday before being flown to the court’s detention unit.

He said he wanted to protect against what he called attempts to rewrite history. “Kosovo has been the victim. Serbia has been the aggressor,” he said.

Most of the people who died in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo were ethnic Albanians, and 1,641 people are still unaccounted for. A 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops ended the fighting.

The formation of the court and prosecutor’s office followed a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners and killed Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians. The organ harvesting allegations are not included in the indictment against Thaci.

In 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, a move that Serbia refuses to recognize.

Ties between Kosovo and Serbia remain tense, despite nine years of negotiations mediated by the European Union and supported by the United States.

The indictment was announced in June when Thaci was en route to a meeting at the White House with Serb counterpart Aleksandar Vucic. That meeting was held with Kosovo’s prime minister instead in September.

The European Union mission in Kosovo and member states’ representatives welcomed Thaci’s resignation and the cooperation that he and the other indicted leaders showed with the court.

“We have strongly supported the establishment of the Specialist Chambers, an integral part of Kosovo’s Rule of Law system, and will continue to do so until the Chambers’ mission, which Kosovo has also committed to, is fulfilled,” the mission said in a statement. “This is essential for the consolidation of Kosovo’s European perspective.”

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Associated Press writer Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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