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Kosovo politician on trial for war crimes

Kosovo politician and parliamentarian Fatmir Limaj went on trial on Friday for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war with Serbia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Limaj allegedly ordered two captured Serb policemen executed and tortured another Serbian captive in 1999. Limaj is also under investigation for embezzling funds while serving as transport minister. The senior politician, along with eight other other defendants who also pleaded not guilty, was taken into the Pristina District Court under tight security measures [AP report] early Friday morning, where he will be tried in front of two EU judges and one Kosovo judge. Though much of the prosecution's case relied upon a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who was found hanged [Reuters report] in September in an apparent suicide, the trial is expected to conclude early next year.

The European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] has been investigating war crimes [JURIST report] since December 2008. An influential figure in the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) [official website, in Albanian], Limaj was excluded from a cabinet position following international pressure not to include corrupt officials, but was elected into the Kosovo parliament. Limaj is an ex-member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and is viewed as a liberator by many ethnic Albanians. In 2005, Limaj was acquitted of similar charges by a war crimes tribunal in The Hague because of insufficient evidence. An EU judge in September placed Limaj under house arrest [JURIST report] while awaiting trial. In September, EULEX charged 10 former members of the KLA [JURIST report], including Fatmir Limaj, with war crimes for their actions during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

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