War crimes prosecutors cross examination for Kosovo's Hashim Thaci

Leader of country's independence struggle proclaims his belief in peace through reconciliation

People hold signs as show support for Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci in front of the special tribunal, in The Hague, Netherlands July 13, 2020. REUTERS/ Eva Plevier REFILE - CORRECTING INFORMATION
People hold signs as show support for Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci in front of the special tribunal, in The Hague, Netherlands July 13, 2020. REUTERS/ Eva Plevier REFILE - CORRECTING INFORMATION

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci warned that "nobody can rewrite history" over his role in the 1990s war as he gave evidence under questioning by war crimes investigators.

Prosecutors at The Hague-based Specialist Kosovo Chambers last month indicted him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during Kosovo's 1998-99 uprising against Serbian rule.

Mr Thaci and others accused were charged with being "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders" in addition to other crimes against Serb, Roma and Kosovo Albanian victims while he was leader of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

"I am ready to face the new challenge and succeed for my son, my family, my people and my country," the president said outside the chambers, where banner-waving supporters had gathered.

"Nobody can rewrite history. This is a price of freedom."

President since 2016 and prime minister before that, in recent years Mr Thaci has taken part in talks aimed at normalising ties with Serbia, which still rejects the independence of its former province.

"Kosovo is a success story, I am very proud," Mr Thaci said before entering the heavily secured court building.

"I believe in peace through reconciliation and justice. I believe in dialogue and relations with all nations."

A judge will decide later this year whether to formally charge Mr Thaci, Kosovo's most powerful politician.

Mr Thaci has said that he would resign if the charges were confirmed, insisting that he was innocent and saying on Sunday before his departure for The Hague that "our war was clean and just".

The Kosovo conflict, which claimed about 13,000 lives, was only ended when Nato launched a bombing campaign against Serbian forces that forced them to quit the territory.

Updated: July 13, 2020 05:55 PM

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