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Another Kosovo top veteran arrested for 'witness intimidation'

1 min 18Approximate reading time

The deputy head of a Kosovo war veterans' association has been arrested and sent to The Hague on accusations of witness intimidation, a war crimes court said Saturday, a day after it said the body's head had met the same fate.

Nasim Haradinaj was arrested on Friday during a raid of the veterans' headquarters in Pristina, days after his association said it had received classified court files.

The raid and arrest were carried out with the help of heavily armed European police from the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).

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

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

The head of the association Hysni Gucati was also arrested on Friday and also transferred to The Hague.

Both men are suspected of "offences against the administration of justice, namely intimidation of witnesses, retaliation and violation of secrecy of proceedings", the specialist court said in statements.

Gucati and Haradinaj as well as 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 Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) 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 tribunal's prosecutors earlier this year for being "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders".

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 politicians and generals 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.

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