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Kosovo politician again acquitted of war crimes charges

The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] on Tuesday acquitted [press release] Fatmir Limaj [JURIST news archive], a close ally of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci [official website], of war crimes charges. Limaj was accused of killing and torturing Serbian prisoners at a Kosovo Liberation Army-run detention camp. The case was marked by the suicide of the prosecution's chief witness [B92 report], Agim Zogaj, in 2011. The court reasoned that although Zogaj could not testify, the information he provided was unreliable, and there was no independent evidence that proved that Limaj was the perpetrator of the crimes of which he was accused. This ruling marked the third time that Limaj has been acquitted of war crimes allegedly committed during the 1998-99 ethnic Albanian guerrilla insurgency in the former Serbian province. His retrial began [JURIST report] in April.

Limaj was previously tried in 2011 and was acquitted [JURIST reports] in May 2012. 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 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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