A Kosovo Court has acquitted Fatmir Limaj, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and three other ex-fighters, in the Klecka case.
A mixed panel of European and Kosovo Judges at Pristina’s District Court announced on Wednesday that they had found no evidence to justify continuing the trial against the four remaining defendants in the case, who had been accused of war crimes against the civilian population and prisoners of war.
The prosecutor of the case, which is perhaps the most high-profile case for the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, has announced that he will appeal the decision.
The panel, which was led by EULEX’s judge Jonathan Welford-Carroll, cleared Fatmir Limaj, Nexhmi Krasniqi, Naser Krasniqi and Naser Shala on all the counts against them, despite its assessment a month ago that there was stills sufficient evidence to pursue a separate trial against the four accused.
On March 30, the court acquitted 6 defendants in the Klecka Case: Behlul Limaj, Refki Mazreku, Sabit Shaba, Shaban Shala, Arben Krasniqi, and Besim Shurdhaj.
The ten former KLA fighters had been indicted on suspicion of committing war crimes against Serbs and Albanians at the Klecka detention centre in 1999, during the conflict in Kosovo.
According to the indictment, Limaj and the other nine co-defendants had “violated the bodily integrity and health of an unspecified number of Serb and Albanian civilians and Serb prisoners of war held in a detention centre in the village of Klecka.”
Prisoners were held in "inhumane conditions, which included keeping prisoners chained, cold and hungry, in insanitary conditions, and frequent beatings", read the indictment.
Almost all of the charges were based on the testimony of Agim Zogaj, known as Witness X, who killed himself last September in Germany, before the trial started.
Zogaj was a prison guard at the Klecka prison and his diary about events there was crucial to the prosecution’s case. However, on March 21, the court found that his testimony and diaries were inadmissible.
Limaj, the Vice President of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, has already faced a war crimes trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.
He was charged, along with Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala, with committing war crimes against Serbs and Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbia during the Kosovo war.
In November 2005, the ICTY acquitted him and he returned home to a hero’s welcome, with street celebrations in the capital, Pristina.