20 April 2007

Trial of former Kosovo PM to start on March 5

Reuters, 25 Jan 2007 13:39:04 GMT


AMSTERDAM, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The trial of Kosovo's former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj on war crimes charges when he was a leader in a 1998-99 war against Serb forces will start on March 5, the U.N. tribunal said on Thursday.


Haradinaj, a former regional commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), resigned as prime minister in 2005 to face charges of murder, rape and torture allegedly committed by forces under his command. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.


Haradinaj, 38, is accused of leading a campaign to drive Serbs and Roma from their villages and for attacks on ethnic Albanian and Roma civilians the KLA saw as collaborators.


Considered a hero by many Kosovo Albanians, Haradinaj is the most senior former KLA guerrilla to be indicted over the war against Serb forces and the first serving head of government to be indicted since former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.


A former nightclub bouncer in Switzerland who was appointed prime minister in late 2004, Haradinaj was granted provisional release by the tribunal pending the start of his trial and allowed to engage in politics.


He has urged Kosovo's Albanian majority of close to 2 million people to maintain the struggle for independence from Serbia after the 1998-99 war that killed 10,000.


Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 11 weeks of NATO bombing drove out Serb forces in 1999. Revenge attacks for Serb repression of Albanian civilians prompted up to 200,000 Serb civilians to flee their religious heartland.


Diplomatic and U.N. sources told Reuters on Thursday a U.N. plan for Kosovo will remove the province from Serbian sovereignty and set it on the road to independence, but provide Serbs living there with significant autonomy.