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Kosovo war crimes suspect slams 'Gestapo' court as trial opens

The first case at a special court probing crimes from Kosovo's 1998-1999 independence conflict is...

👤 H K Badal15 Sep 2021 5:27 PM GMT
Kosovo war crimes suspect slams Gestapo court as trial opens

Salih Mustafa, former commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), looks on as he waits for the start of his first trial at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court in The Hague.

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The first case at a special court probing crimes from Kosovo's 1998-1999 independence conflict is beginning in The Hague with the war crimes trial of a former rebel leader facing charges including murder and torture.

Salih Mustafa is charged with the war crimes of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, the torture of at least six people and the murder of one person at a detention compound in Zllash, Kosovo, in April 1999. The victims were accused by KLA fighters of collaborating with Serbs or not supporting the KLA, according to his indictment.

His trial on September 15 opened with Kosovo Specialist Chambers Presiding Judge Mappie Veldt-Foglia giving a history of the legal proceedings before the charges against Mustafa were read out.

"I am not guilty of any of the counts brought here before me by this Gestapo office," Mustafa, 49, said as his trial started, comparing the war crimes court to Nazi Germany's secret police.

He wore a red T-shirt in court and listened to a simultaneous translation of proceedings through headphones that he held over his left ear.

Mustafa was arrested a year ago in Kosovo and sent to the Netherlands to stand trial at the EU-backed Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

Prosecutors said Mustafa and his men "brutalised and tortured" fellow ethnic Kosovo Albanians whom they accused of collaborating with Serbs in Zllash, a village east of the capital Pristina.