İrem UZUN -TDO- In his first appearance before the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers on Monday, former president of the Kosovo Hashim Thaci rejected charges accusing him of wartime crimes.  “I read them and I do not agree with any of them,” said Thaci, who stepped down as Kosovo’s president last week before he was sent to The Hague for trial.  “The indictment is completely without basis and I plead not guilty,” he added.

Thaci, 52, served as the leader of Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) 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. He is charged along with three others with war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder and torture during an alleged campaign by KLA between 1998 and 1999 against civilians it deemed to be its enemies.  The defendants allegedly carried out “a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population”, including those believed to be collaborating with Serb forces, or not cooperating with the KLA.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals. They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.  The court is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians, who see it as an “insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule”.

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