PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Veterans of a rebel army that fought for Kosovo's independence from Serbia held protests Thursday against the indictment of the country’s president on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges stemming from the conflict in the late 1990s.
Ninety-nine Kosovo Liberation Army veterans, symbolically representing the year the 1998-99 war in Kosovo ended, gathered at a main square in the capital of Pristina and other cities to denounce the indictment of President Hashim Thaci as “unfair” and promoted by Serbia.
“Such acts from this court do not positively impact the reconciliation in the Western Balkans,” the head of a war veterans’ organization, Hysni Gucati, said.
A prosecutor of an international court set up in The Hague but applying Kosovo laws issued the indictment, which alleges Thaci and other former KLA members are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders of Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanian political opponents during and after the war with Serbia.
The indictment also includes charges of forced disappearances, persecution and torture.
Thaci, a former KLA commander, denies any responsibility for alleged war crimes but said Wednesday he would go to The Hague on Monday to be questioned by prosecutors.
A pretrial judge at Kosovo Specialist Chambers hasn’t made a decision on whether to proceed with the case or throw it out.
Thaci has said that if the indictment stands, he “will immediately resign as your president and face the accusations.”
The fighting in Kosovo left more than 10,000 dead, most of them ethnic Albanians. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign in 1999 that forced Serbian troops to stop their brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanians and leave Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Serbia refuses to recognize.
Following the announcement of Thaci’s indictment, a White House meeting between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia that was organized by U.S. presidential envoy Richard Grenell was postponed.
Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic are scheduled to meet Sunday for European Union-supervised talks in Brussels, the first negotiations to normalize relations between the two countries in 20 months.
Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.