Kosovo war veterans plead innocent to witness bullying | World news

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Two leaders of a Kosovo veterans association pleaded innocent on Thursday to charges including obstruction of justice and intimidation of witnesses, as their trial opened before a court in The Hague.

Hysni Gucati, who was president of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans Association when he was arrested last year, and his deputy, Nasim Haradinaj, are both accused of obstructing the justice and intimidation in September last year for allegedly revealing information, including the identities of potential witnesses. at the tribunal of the specialized chambers of Kosovo.

Both men told Presiding Judge Charles Smith III that they were innocent of all charges.

“I am always against injustice,” said Haradinaj.

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Witness intimidation has been a major problem in international prosecutions of crimes committed during Kosovo’s 1998-1999 struggle to separate from Serbia, and the Hague-based tribunal is working to protect those offering to ‘help in its investigations.

The Veterans Association represents former ethnic Albanian separatists who fought Serbian troops in the War of Independence. The special tribunal investigates war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conflict.

He has indicted suspects, including former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, with conflict-related murder, torture and persecution. Thaci denies the charges.

The tribunal and an associate prosecutor’s office were created following a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, which included allegations that Liberation Army fighters from Kosovo allegedly trafficked human organs taken from prisoners and killed Serbs and other ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The United States and most Western countries recognize Kosovo’s independence, but not Serbia, supported by its allies Russia and China.

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia persist despite EU-brokered talks to normalize relations between Pristina and Belgrade that began in 2011. Soldiers from a NATO-led peacekeeping mission are currently monitoring the border between Kosovo and Serbia after the two countries reached an agreement to de-escalate tensions sparked by a dispute over vehicle registration plates.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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