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Kosovo ex-PM faces war crimes verdict at UN tribunal

Kosovo ex-PM faces war crimes verdict at UN tribunal

The Hague: The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court will today hand down judgement for Kosovo's ex-prime minister and former freedom fighter Ramush Haradinaj and two comrades in arms who were retried because of witness intimidation.

Haradinaj, 44 and Idriz Balaj, 41, face six war-crime charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for allegedly murdering and torturing Serbs and non-Albanians during Kosovo's brutal 1998-99 war for independence from Belgrade.

The third accused, Lahi Brahimaj, 42, faces four counts at the Hague-based tribunal for his role in the fight between independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas and the Belgrade forces of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The trial will be broadcast live on a giant screen in the Kosovo capital Pristina, where Haradinaj is considered a hero by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority who have high hopes of an acquittal.

But senior Serbian officials have warned that should Haradinaj walk, EU-sponsored talks between Pristina and Belgrade -- which still considers Kosovo to be its southern province -- could be jeopardised.

The most senior Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders to be tried, Haradinaj as well as Balaj, his lieutenant and commander of the feared "Black Eagles" unit, were acquitted in April 2008 on 37 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture and sentenced to six years in jail.

Judges however ordered the court's first-ever partial retrial for all three after UN prosecutors appealed the acquittal and Brahimaj's sentence.

Appeals judges said the ICTY's trial chamber "seriously erred in failing to take adequate measures to secure the testimony of certain witnesses" during the original 10-month trial.

Haradinaj -- who quit his job as prime minister after 100 days in office to hand himself over to the tribunal -- and Balaj returned to court for the verdict while Brahimaj remains in detention.


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