Hashim Thaci, who resigned as Kosovo’s president to face war crimes and other charges including murder, torture and persecution, said on Monday that he denied all the charges he faces in a special court in the Netherlands.
Thaci, 52, served as a guerrilla leader during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia in the late 1990s, before rising to political prominence in the aftermath of the conflict that killed more than 10,000 people.
An international prosecutor charged Thaci and other former guerrilla leaders on ten charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his leadership of fighters with the Kosovo Liberation Army accused of imprisoning, abusing and murdering captured opponents and experienced traitors during the war.
At a preliminary hearing at the Hague court on Monday, he said: “I do not plead guilty to all charges in the indictment.” At Monday’s court, a judge appeared that Thaci’s rights were respected and that he understood the accusations.
Thaci stood as Kosovo’s president last week before being flown to the court’s detention center.
Most of those who died during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo were ethnic Albanians, and 1,641 people are still unknown. A 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops ended the fighting.
The formation of the court and the prosecution service followed a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, which accused KLA fighters of dealing with human organs taken from prisoners and killing Serbs and other ethnic Albanians. The organ harvest’s allegations were not included in the indictment against Thaci.
In 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, a move that Belgrade refuses to recognize.
Ties between Kosovo and Serbia remain tense despite nine years of negotiations mediated by the European Union and supported by the United States.