Kosovo leader backs for­mer fight­ers ac­cused of war crimes

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - WORLD - By Sylejman Kllokoqi The As­so­ci­ated Press

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s prime min­is­ter met Sun­day with two fel­low for­mer fight­ers in a bloody war for in­de­pen­dence from Ser­bia two decades ago who are pre­par­ing to be ques­tioned by prose­cu­tors for a spe­cial war crimes court.

Prime Min­is­ter Ra­mush Harad­i­naj’s Face­book page showed pho­tos from the meet­ings at the homes of for­mer Kosovo Lib­er­a­tion Army (KLA) mem­bers Sami Lush­taku and Rrustem Mustafa. He said the 19981999 war was “clean and sa­cred.”

Mustafa is set to be in­ter­viewed on Mon­day and Lush­taku on Wed­nes­day by the Spe­cial­ist Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice, their lawyer, Ari­anit Koci, said. The of­fice is part of a court es­tab­lished in 2015 to in­ves­ti­gate atroc­ity al­le­ga­tions against some KLA fight­ers from dur­ing and af­ter the war for in­de­pen­dence.

The court is gov­erned by Kosovo laws but is run by in­ter­na­tional judges and prose­cu­tors and funded by the Euro­pean Union. It is based in the Nether­lands to pre­vent witness in­tim­i­da­tion.

Harad­i­naj, a for­mer Kosovo Lib­er­a­tion Army leader, was twice ac­quit­ted of war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity by a United Na­tions court.

“To­gether we shall come out spot­less from this chal­lenge,” he wrote on Face­book.

Pres­i­dent Hashim Thaci, who also fought with KLA, ex­pressed sup­port for the pair as well.

“You are the war na­tional he­roes and you al­ways will re­main as such for the Kosovo in­sti­tu­tions and the peo­ple,” Thaci wrote on his Face­book page, which in­cluded a pho­to­graph of the pres­i­dent with Lush­taku and Mustafa.

While pre­par­ing for a flight to The Hague, Lush­taku face­tiously told jour­nal­ists at the air­port he would “feel bad” if he hadn’t been sum­moned by the court.

Mustafa said be­fore leav­ing for the Nether­lands they con­sider them­selves in­no­cent.

The court was set up fol­low­ing

U.S. and EU pres­sure four years af­ter a 2011 re­port by the Coun­cil of Europe, the con­ti­nent’s top hu­man rights body, cat­a­logued al­le­ga­tions of wide­spread crimes com­mit­ted by Kosovo in­de­pen­dence fight­ers.

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