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Kosovo's Thaci to be interviewed on war crimes charges

1 min 21Approximate reading time

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said on Wednesday he would be interviewed next week in The Hague by prosecutors who have accused him of war crimes in the 1990s conflict with Serbia.

Thaci, a former political leader of an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group, was charged in late June by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the 1998-99 conflict.

The war claimed about 13,000 lives, overwhelmingly Kosovo Albanians.

Thaci's Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) rebelled against Belgrade when Kosovo was a Serbian province.

The president said on Facebook prosecutors had already interviewed many of his former KLA colleagues.

"On Monday I will also travel to The Hague, invited by the Specialist Prosecutor's Office, to be interviewed," he said, promising to "face international justice with dignity and integrity".

Thaci, Kosovo's most powerful politician, insists he is not guilty and has said he would quit if the accusations were confirmed.

The indictment still needs approval from a pre-trial judge, which could take months.

Prosecutors said they rushed the announcement because Thaci and other suspects had been trying to obstruct the work of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, the hybrid court that operates under Kosovo law but has international judges.

Thaci, his closest political ally Kadri Veseli and others are charged with being "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders" in addition to other crimes against Serb, Roma and Kosovo Albanian victims.

President since 2016 and prime minister before that, in recent years Thaci has taken part in talks aimed at normalising ties with Serbia.

Belgrade still rejects the independence of its former province, declared in 2008.

After the 1990s war, several Serbian military and police officials were convicted of war crimes.

But KLA rebels have also been accused of coordinating a campaign of revenge attacks on Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanian rivals during and after the war.

The charges were announced as Thaci was preparing to fly to the United States for a meeting with Serbian representatives.

The meeting was postponed and the two sides will come together on Sunday in Brussels, hoping to relaunch a European Union-brokered dialogue that started a decade ago but has been frozen for over a year

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