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Retrial ordered for Kosovo politician accused of war crimes

The Kosovo Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a retrial [press release] against Kosovo politician and parliamentarian Fatmir Limaj [JURIST news archive] and three other co-defendants on charges of war crimes allegedly committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war with Serbia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Limaj allegedly ordered the torture and killings of Serbian detainees in 1999. The Supreme Court panel consisted of three European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] judges and two local judges and was presided by a EULEX judge. Limaj was originally tried in 2011 and was acquitted [JURIST reports] in May. Much of the prosecution's case relied upon the testimony of a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who was found hanged in September in an apparent suicide. The panel ruled that the former KLA member's testimony would be admissible on retrial.

EULEX has been investigating war crimes [JURIST report] since December 2008. An influential figure in the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo [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 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 2011 placed Limaj under house arrest after EULEX charged 10 former members of the KLA [JURIST reports], including Limaj, with war crimes for their actions during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

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