The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has overturned a ruling that sent nine former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army to prison for the murder of civilians.
The appeals court quashed a first-instance verdict that sentenced members of the KLA's Gnjilane Group to a total of 101 years in prison for murder of civilians in 1999.
The men will now face a retrial, the court announced on its web site on Thursday. The war crimes trial was one of the most high profile to be heard in a Belgrade court.
The quashed decision sentenced Agus Memisi, Selimon Sadiku, Samet Hajdari to 15 years in prison, and Nazif Hasani, Burim Fazliju, Faton Hajdari, Ahmet Hasani to 10 years in prison, as well as Ferat Hajdari and Kamber Sahiti to eight years in prison.
The first-instance verdict was overturned due to serious violation of the criminal proceedings, the fact that the statement of reasons fails to mention certain facts, while the reasons offered are elusive and contradictory to a great extent, the court press release reads.
The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutors Office charged the indictees with killing dozens of Serbs, Roma, and also ethnic Albanians in the territory of Gnjilane, Kosovo in the period from June to September 1999. Thirty-five civilians have been recorded as missing.
According to the indictment, another 153 civilians were arrested, tortured and then released.
The nine men come from the predominantly ethnic Albanian Presevo valley in southern Serbia, and ethnic Albanian political leaders there called the first-instance verdict the result of a rigged political trial.
Fazlija Ajdari, Redzep Alija, Sacir Saciri, who were staff officers at the KLA operational center, are still on the run, so they were tried in absentia on charges of ordering the atrocities.
According to the verdict, Agus Memisi, Faton Hajdari, Samet Hajdar, Sadik Selimon will remain in detention until further notice. The indictees were remanded in custody in the southern Serbian town of Presevo on December 26, 2008.
Other suspects were released from detention at the end of 2010, but they were forbidden from leaving their place of residence in Presevo.
This article is Premium Content. In order to gain access to it, please login to your account below if you are already a Premium Subscriber, or subscribe to one of our Premium Content packages.
Our Premium Service gives you access to exclusive content published on Balkan Insight, including analyses, investigations, comments, interviews and more. Subscribe to Balkan Transitional Justice Premium or to Full Premium Access and get unparalleled in-depth coverage of the Western Balkans.
If you have trouble logging in or any other questions regarding you account, please contact us