Kosovo Protests Over Ex-Guerillas’ War Crimes Arrests

Thousands of Kosovo Albanians, mainly veterans from the country’s 1998-99 separatist war with Serbia, protested on Monday against an EU war crimes probe into former guerrilla fighters.Vedat Xhymshiti | between THE...
Thousands of Kosovo Albanians, mainly veterans from the country’s 1998-99 separatist war with Serbia, protested on Monday against an EU war crimes probe into former guerrilla fighters.

Vedat Xhymshiti | between THE frontlines

Pristina, Kosovo

Monday, May 27, 2013
The protest comes after the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) last week detained seven former fighters with the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The seven are being probed for war crimes against civilians held in a KLA detention centre in the central Kosovo municipality of Srbica, EULEX said in a statement.
©Vedat Xhymshiti
The detention centre was located in the northwestern Drenica region, the wartime stronghold of the ethnic Albanian guerrillas.
“EULEX is tarnishing the most prominent personalities of our freedom war,” said Smajl Elezi, head of the war veterans’ union in Pristina.
Among those arrested were Sylejman Selimi, a former KLA commander in the area, and current ambassador to Albania, and central Kosovo town Srbica mayor Sami Lushtaku, a top official of prime minister Hashim Thaci’s ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo.
They were ordered to serve 30 days under house arrest despite a request by Italian prosecutor Maurizio Salustro for them to be held in prison pending the outcome of his investigation.
It was unclear whether Selimi would keep his ambassadorial post and Kosovo’s foreign ministry was not available for comment.
Protestors in Pristina chanted “KLA, KLA!” and carried photos of the seven suspects as they marched peacefully along the main streets of the capital.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Just months later, Brussels launched the EULEX mission to strengthen the rule of law and assist the local judiciary in tackling the most sensitive cases or even pursuing them independently.
KLA guerrillas fought the armed forces of then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic during a 1998-1999 war. They are still considered heroes among Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population of almost two million.
Last month, a top former KLA commander Fatmir Limaj, also an official from Thaci’s party, went on trial for war crimes along with nine lower-ranking KLA fighters.

The war, which claimed around 13,000 lives, ended when a NATO-led air campaign halted Milosevic’s crackdown on the pro-independence Kosovo Albanians and ousted his forces from the territory in June 1999.

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