Ex-fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, hailed the court’s decision to release one of their former commanders, Fatmir Limaj, while locals in his home town dance to the tune of drums.
A court freed the the ten men on Wednesday, seven months after their arrest on charges of committing war crimes against Serb and other non-Albanian civilians and prisoners of war in 1999 during the conflict in Kosovo.
The KLA war veterans organization, OVLUCK, said that Wednesday’s decision proved that the Klecka case was a politically motivated process while the release of the men confirmed that the KLA did not commit any war crimes, as Belgrade has alleged.
“We have repeatedly said the process is a political set-up masterminded by Belgrade. The KLA fought a war of liberation and any attempt to corrupt its legacy is doomed to fail,” the statement issued on Thursday said.
Pristina District Court released the defendants in the Klecka Case after the diaries of the deceased witness, Agim Zogaj, were ruled inadmissible as evidence.
The indictment against Limaj and the other defendants had charged them with committing various war crimes at an improvised detention center in the village of Klecka, in the Drenica region of Kosovo.
Fatmir Limaj, Deputy President of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and a former transport minister, has not commented on his time under house arrest.
Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister, Hajredin Kuci, said the court’s decision on Limaj was “good news for Kosovo and its judiciary”.
Kosovo’s Parliament Speaker, Jakup Krasniqi, who met Limaj for a coffee on Thursday, told reporters that “the Kosovo judiciary has learned a lesson from the Klecka case”.
According to the war veterans, the release of Limaj, once known by the nom-de-guerre Commander Steel, “demonstrates the failure of the [EU law mission] EULEX prosecution to stain the record of the KLA”.
The former KLA soldier’s release was celebrated in Limaj’s hometown of Malisheva, where people danced to the sound of drums in the middle of the streets.
Limaj, who remains a popular figure in Kosovo, has already faced a war crimes trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY.
The Hague Tribunal acquitted him of all the charges regarding his alleged involvement in crimes committed in the Lapusnik prison camp in 1998.
After his acquittal in November 2005 Limaj returned home to a hero’s welcome, with street celebrations in the Kosovo capital, Pristina.
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