News 27 Feb 13

Kosovo Ex-Fighters Face Third War Crimes Trial

The retrial of three ex-Kosovo Liberation Army commanders for jailing, torturing and killing Albanian civilians will begin next month, a Pristina court has decided.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina

For the third time since the case first went before a court in 2003, former commander and ex-lawmaker from the Kosovo Democratic Party, Rrustem Mustafa, plus two other former senior fighters, will be tried for crimes against civilians during the Kosovo war of 1998-1999.

The retrial of the three men, known as the ‘Llapi Group’, is set to start on March 25, a preparatory hearing in Pristina confirmed on Tuesday, but the defence remains unhappy with the charges against them.

Mustafa and his co-defendants Latif Gashi (known as Lata) and Nazif Mehmeti (known as Nazi) all held command positions within the KLA during the conflict with Serbian forces.

According to the indictment, from August 1998 until April 1999, they detained, tortured, abused and killed Kosovo Albanian civilians at detention centres in the villages of Bajgora, Llapashtica, Majac Potok and Koliq in eastern Kosovo near Podujeve/Podujevo.

To escape the torture, the indictment says, the detainees had to show loyalty towards the KLA by killing a Serb.

In September last year, the EU rule of law mission prosecution changed the indictment by removing Bajgora and Koliq from the charges, but the defence argued on Tuesday that some of the other counts should also be thrown out because previous trials had already rejected them.

The Llapi Group case was first investigated in 2001 and 2002 by the UN mission in Kosovo.

In 2005, after a two-year trial which concluded with guilty verdicts for the defendants, Kosovo’s supreme court ordered a retrial because the allegations had not been proved “beyond all doubt”.

In 2009, the three former KLA commanders were again found guilty of war crimes and jailed for the torture and inhumane treatment of detention camp prisoners.

They appealed against the verdicts and in 2011, the supreme court ordered a partial retrial.

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