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ICTY trial begins for former Kosovo prime minister accused of KLA war crimes

[JURIST] The trial of former Kosovo prime minister and Kosovo Liberation Army [FAS backgrounder] commander Ramush Haradinaj [BBC profile] and two Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj [Trial Watch profiles], began Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive]. In her opening remarks, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile] called Haradinaj a warlord and a mobster in uniform who committed "ugly, cruel and violent crimes." The defendants face 37 counts of war crimes, including murder, persecution, and rape [amended indictment, PDF], but Haradinaj pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to all charges before the tribunal late last week.

Haradinaj was a senior commander of the KLA, the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that opposed Slobodan Milosevic [advocacy website] during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Haradinaj, who was indicted [initial indictment, PDF] by United Nations prosecutors in 2005, originally appeared with Balaj and Brahimaj before the ICTY last year, where they pleaded not guilty to the original 37 charges entered against them [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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