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Kosovo's Thaci Questioned By War-Crimes Prosecutors At The Hague


Kosovar President Hashim Thaci speaks to the media as he arrives at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on July 13.
Kosovar President Hashim Thaci speaks to the media as he arrives at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on July 13.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci has faced questioning by international war-crimes prosecutors at The Hague.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (SPO) announced on June 24 that Thaci and other prominent Kosovars were the subject of an indictment on suspicion of serious crimes including "nearly 100 murders," enforced disappearances, and torture.

Thaci was a top commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which fought a guerrilla war for independence from Serbia in the 1990s.

Thaci was quizzed for around six hours at the SPO on July 13. As he left the SPO building, he said he would also be questioned on July 14.

Thaci said there were “exchanges over various technicalities” between his lawyer Pierre Richard Prosper and the war-crimes prosecutors about "explanatory, technical issues."

He added that the questioning also covered the UCK.

The prosecutors did not provide any details about the questioning.

"Today I am here out of respect for what I dreamed and fought for. A free, independent Kosovo based on equal rights, a multiethnic society based on the rule of law," Thaci said upon arriving earlier in the day at the Specialist Prosecutor's Office (SPO) on July 13.

"Nobody can rewrite history," Thaci added. "This is the price for freedom. I believe in peace, truth, reconciliation and justice. I believe in dialogue and good relations with all nations."

Several dozen Thaci supporters congregated outside the court for his arrival, chanting his name, holding up Kosovo flags, and waving banners.

On July 8, Thaci said on Facebook that he would go to The Hague at the invitation of the SPO to be interviewed.

He said many former combatants have been interviewed by the SPO inside and outside of Kosovo in the past two years.

“While my compatriots as well as me will face international justice with dignity and integrity, I call upon you to stand united in dealing with the challenges that our country is facing,” Thaci said on Facebook.

A pretrial judge in the SPO has yet to decide whether to put Thaci and the others on trial or throw out the case.

Thaci has told Kosovars that if he is tried, he will immediately resign and face the accusations.

Thaci’s indictment forced the cancellation of U.S.-sponsored talks scheduled to take place last month at the White House between Kosovar and Serbian leaders.

But the European Union appears to have breathed new life into long-stalled EU-sponsored talks, announcing on July 12 that they were “back on track” after a video meeting between Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic mediated by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

EU special envoy Miroslav Lajcak, who also took part in the meeting, said Vucic and Hoti are scheduled to meet again, this time face to face, in Brussels on July 16.

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade. Five of the EU’s 27 countries -- Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia, and Spain -- also don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, and statehood remains the biggest stumbling block.

EU-mediated negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade broke down in 2018 over reports of a proposed land swap and after Kosovo imposed a 100 percent tax on Serbian imports.

Both Kosovo and Serbia, which aspire to join the EU, have been facing mounting pressure from the West to reboot negotiations.

With reporting by AP and AFP

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