Accessibility links

Breaking News

Backer Of Kosovar War Veterans Declines To Enter Plea At Hague Hearing


Hysni Gucati is the head of the Kosovo War Veterans' Association.

The deputy leader of an association of Kosovar war veterans declined to enter a plea before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on December 18 in a hearing related to witness endangerment and other charges in connection with investigations of possible war crimes.

Nasim Haradinaj accused the prosecutors of “selective, political, and biased" prosecutions and "trying to place the blame on Kosovo" for atrocities during the former Yugoslav province's war of independence from Serbia in 1998-99.

Hysni Gucati, the head of the Kosovo War Veterans' Association of which Haradinaj is vice president, pleaded not guilty to the same charges when he appeared at a separate hearing later on December 18.

Both men are accused of obstruction of justice and divulging the identities of witnesses in violation of the secrecy of proceedings before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor's Office.

Haradinaj's lawyer, Toby Cadman, said his client would enter a plea to the charges at his next appearance, in early 2021.

The War Veterans Association represents former ethnic Albanian separatists who fought Serb troops in the late 1990s.

A handful of ex-guerrilla leaders including Kosovar ex-President Hashim Thaci are also under indictment by The Hague-based prosecutors -- who operate under Kosovar law -- for alleged murder, abduction, and other serious crimes stemming from Kosovo's war and its aftermath.

Thaci and the others deny the charges.

They and many Kosovars have accused The Hague-based prosecutors of unfairly targeting Kosovars' actions while ignoring atrocities by Serbs who fought to prevent their independence.

Serbia still does not recognize Kosovar independence, and international mediation efforts for over a decade have focused on trying to get the two Balkan neighbors to normalize relations.

Haradinaj's lawyer, Toby Cadman, said he would enter a plea to the charges at an appearance before the chambers early next year.

With reporting by AP