Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Albanians on trial over Kosovo torture

AFP , THE HAGUE

Three ethnic Albanians were to go on trial in an unprecedented case at the UN war crimes court in The Hague yesterday, charged with murder, torture and inhuman acts allegedly committed against Serb and Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1998.

Fatmir Limaj, 33, Haradin Bala, 57, and Isak Musliu, 34 -- all former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) -- allegedly committed the war crimes against Serb and Albanian civilians held in a KLA prison camp in Lapushnik, eastern Kosovo, in 1998.

Limaj was commandant at the camp run by former Kosovo Albanian rebel leader-turned politician Hashim Thaci's KLA at the time of the alleged offences. Among the charges levelled against him are the murder of 10 Serbs and Albanians.

According to the charge sheet, the three men "contributed to maintaining inhuman conditions in the camp ... and participating in acts of torture and physical cruelty inflicted on detainees."

Former camp guard Musliu stands accused of participating in the murder of four detainees in July 1998.

Bala is accused of taking part in the execution of 11 detainees in the same month as Serb forces were in the process of retaking the Lapushnik region.

During their initial appearance in court, the three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. The trial has already hit the headlines after an ethnic Albanian man from Kosovo pleaded not guilty yesterday before the UN war crimes court here to charges of intimidating witnesses called to testify in the trial of the three.

Beqa Beqaj, 51, from the central Kosovo village of Petrovo, insisted that he was innocent of the charges for which he could be sentenced to a maximum seven years in prison and fined US$130,000.

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