Head of Kosovo veterans' association appears in court

The head of an organization of Kosovo war veterans who was detained last week on suspicion of offenses including intimidating witnesses has appeared in court for the first time since his arrest

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The head of an organization of Kosovo war veterans, who was detained last week on suspicion of offenses including intimidating witnesses, appeared in court Thursday for the first time since his arrest.

Hysni Gucati's lawyer, Jonathan Rees, told the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court he had already filed legal challenges to his client's arrest and transfer to the Netherlands and applied for him to be released on bail.

The pretrial judge handling the case, Nicolas Guillou, did not immediately rule on the bail request.

Prosecutors allege that Gucati, who has not yet been indicted or charged, publicized court documents and intimidated witnesses in cases under investigation by international prosecutors probing allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to Kosovo's 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia.

His deputy appeared in court on Tuesday on similar allegations. The veterans’ association represents former ethnic Albanian separatists who fought in the war.

Gucati said there was no need for European Union security police to detain him last week in Kosovo.

“They could have invited me and I would have presented myself,” he told Guillou.

The first war crimes suspect indicted by the internationally funded specialist chambers, Salih Mustafa, appeared in the same Hague courtroom on Monday charged with offenses including torture and murder.

Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia left more than 10,000 people dead — most of them ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. More than 1,600 people still remain unaccounted for. NATO air strikes against Serbian forces ended the conflict.