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Retrial begins against Kosovo politician accused of war crimes

The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] on Thursday began the retrial of Fatmir Limaj [JURIST news archive], a prominent political figure in the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) [official website, in Albanian] and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Nine other defendants are also facing charges in the case. Limaj pleaded not guilty [AFP report] to war crimes charges stemming from his activities in the village of Klecka during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Limaj allegedly ordered the torture and killings of Serbian detainees in 1999. He was arrested [JURIST report] by EULEX in November. The previous trial of Limaj and his codefendants was derailed when a judge refused to allow key witness testimony. A retrial was ordered in November [JURIST report] by the Kosovo Supreme Court. The other nine individuals, also members of the KLA, pleaded not guilty.

Limaj was originally tried in 2011 and was acquitted [JURIST reports] in May 2012. Much of the prosecution's case relied upon the testimony of a former member of the KLA, who was found hanged in September in an apparent suicide before testifying. The Kosovo Supreme Court held that the testimony would be admissible on the trial. EULEX has been investigating war crimes [JURIST report] since December 2008. 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 Kosovo war.

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