[JURIST] Former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Thursday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] to 37 counts of war crimes, including murder, persecution, and rape. Haradinaj, whose trial is scheduled to begin Monday [ICTY press release], was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army [FAS backgrounder], the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that opposed Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. Also appearing before the ICTY Thursday were Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj [Trial Watch profiles], two other former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters. According to prosecutors, all three conspired to expel Serbian forces from Dukagjin, in Western Kosovo, during the war. A conviction on a single charge could carry a sentence of life in prison.
Haradinaj, who was indicted by United Nations prosecutors in 2005 [text], originally appeared with Balaj and Brahimaj before the ICTY last year, where they pleaded not guilty to 37 charges entered against them [JURIST report]. Prosecutors amended the indictments, requiring new pleas to be entered in front of the tribunal Thursday. Last March, an appeals panel of the ICTY ruled that Haradinaj could return to politics [JURIST report] in Kosovo during his provisional release pending trial, but only on condition that any requests by him to engage in public political activities be cleared by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [official website]. AP has more.