Kosovo veteran sent to The Hague for 'witness intimidation'

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The head of a Kosovo war veterans' group was arrested on Friday and sent to The Hague on accusations of witness intimidation, a war crimes court said, days after his association said it had received classified court files.

The arrest was carried out in a raid of the veterans' headquarters in Pristina with the help of heavily armed EU security police from the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).

The veterans had said they received three anonymous packages of confidential files from the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

The documents included information about protected witnesses and upcoming indictments, they said.

The leader of the veterans' group, Hysni Gucati, was detained and transferred to The Hague under an arrest warrant for "offences against the administration of justice, namely intimidation of witnesses, retaliation and violation of secrecy of proceedings", the specialist court said in a statement.

Gucati and the other veterans were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that waged a 1998-99 independence struggle against Serbia.

Several of their former top commanders are under investigation by the Hague tribunal for war crimes from that conflict.

The court operates under Kosovo law but is based in the Netherlands to shield witnesses from intimidation in Kosovo, where former KLA commanders have long dominated political life.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci -- the rebels' former political chief -- was the first to face accusations from the court prosecutors earlier this year.

He was accused of being "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders" in an indictment filed to the court.

Many KLA veterans fiercely oppose the tribunal's mandate, defending their "just" liberation war against Belgrade's oppression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population.

The conflict left 13,000 people dead, mainly ethnic Albanians, and saw several top Serbian officers and police later jailed for war crimes.

The KSC is investigating claims that the Kosovo rebels waged a campaign of revenge attacks on Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanian rivals during and after the war.