The hearings in the second retrial of three ex KLA commanders have been postponed after just one day because two of the defendants claimed that they had not been given enough time to read the indictment.
A former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, commander in the region of Llapi, and the Deputy President of the ruling Kosovo Democratic Party, PDK , Rrustem Remi Mustafa, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of war crimes in Kosovo in 1999 at the Pristina District Court.
His two co-defendants, Latif Gashi and Nazif Mehmeti, also former KLA commanders, declined to enter pleas at the partial retrial of the “Llapi Group", which is accused of detaining, torturing and killing Kosovo Albanian civilians.
Gashi, a serving PDK Member of Parliament, and Mehmeti have asked the court to postpone the retrial, saying that they had not had enough time to read the indictment, which they claimed to have received only the day before. The court accepted their request and scheduled the next hearing for September 17.
The indictment alleges that the three accused knew of the existence of the KLA run detention centres in the villages of Bajgora, Llapashtica, Majac, Patok and Kolec, where alleged Albanian collaborators were detained from August 1998 to April 1999.
The “Llapi Group” case was first investigated in 2001 to 2002 by the UN Mission to Kosovo, UNMIK, and went to trial in 2003, concluding with guilty verdicts and long jail sentences. However, in 2005, the Supreme Court of Kosovo ordered a retrial.
In October 2009, the three former KLA Commanders were found guilty of war crimes, and sentenced to 13 years in prison for torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners at camps in the hills of northern Kosovo, near Podujeve/Podujevo.
According to information released by the EU rule of law mission, EULEX: “The inhumane treatment of the civilian detainees caused immense suffering and was a violation of the bodily integrity and health of those detainees and constituted an application of measures of intimidation and terror.”
The three were also found to have instigated the beating and torture of Kosovo Albanian civilians held in the detention centre, in an attempt to force confessions of disloyalty to the KLA.
Gashi was sentenced to six years in prison, Mehmeti to three and Mustafa to four years. All three men have appealed.
Two years later, Kosovo’s Supreme Court, in January 2011, partially granted the appeals of the three defendants, and returned the case to the first instance court for a second partial retrial.