Former Kosovan PM acquitted

The UN war crimes court acquits Ramush Haradinaj of killing and torturing Serbs.

    Haradinaj, far right, is the highest-ranking Kosovo Albanian politician to go on trial at the Hague [AFP]
    Brahimaj prosecuted
     
    One of Haradinaj's co-accused, Idriz Balaj, was also acquitted, while a third defendant, Lahi Brahimaj, who headed a detention camp, received a six-year prison sentence.

    The prosecution had asked for 25 years for the three former
    senior figures in the separatist ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation
    Army (KLA), saying they had tried to evict Serbs and political
    rivals from territories they controlled.

    Haradinaj, 39, was the highest-ranking Kosovo Albanian politician to go on trial at the ICTY.

    Dutch judge Alphons Orie, the president of the court, noted that
    there had been great difficulties in persuading witnesses to give
    evidence.

    Several witnesses refused to take t

    he stand and were charged
    with contempt of court.

    According to the prosecution, important witnesses were intimidated to persuade them not to give evidence.

    Shefquet Kabashi, a former KLA member, told the judges he refused to testify because other witnesses were being killed in Kosovo.

    Judges told him he could get protection from the court, but Kabashi said that the protective measures "do not exist in real life, but only in the courtroom".

    KLA commander

    Haradinaj was a commander of the KLA at the time of the alleged atrocities, as was Balaj, 36, who allegedly headed a paramilitary unit known as the Black Eagles.

    Brahimaj, 38, was a deputy commander of the KLA and ran the Jablanica prison camp, where he was said to have personally tortured inmates.

    The accused had all pleaded not guilty.

    Haradinaj founded the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party shortly after a Nato bombing campaign ended a Serbian army crackdown

    on the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo.

    The KLA, which fought against Serbian forces during the war, was
    later disbanded.

    In 2005, after he was indicted by the ICTY, Haradinaj stepped
    down as prime minister of the UN-administered Serbian province and
    surrendered to the UN court.

    Haradinaj's defence downplayed his role in the KLA, saying it
    was not really an army but "a movement of terrified Albanian
    civilians that grew out of village and family groupings".

    His alleged position of leadership was in reality no comparison
    to that of a conventional army commander, his lawyers told the
    court.

    Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February, in a move recognised so far by more than 35 countries.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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