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War crimes court to question Kosovo's Veseli over 1998-99 role

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By Reuters
War crimes court to question Kosovo's Veseli over 1998-99 role
FILE PHOTO: Kadri Veseli, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), leaves with his wife Violeta after voting at a polling station in Pristina, Kosovo, October 6, 2019. REUTERS/Florion Goga/File Photo   -   Copyright  Florion Goga(Reuters)

PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo’s outgoing speaker of parliament, a former guerrilla commander in the 1998-99 independence war, said on Thursday he had been summoned to answer prosecutors’ questions at a war crimes court in The Hague.

The Specialist Chamber was set up in Netherlands in 2015 to try former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas for alleged atrocities in the uprising that eventually led to independence for the Balkan region from Serbia.

In July, Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned after the court summoned him as a suspect. He gave testimony there before returning home where he is waiting word on whether he will be indicted. Haradinaj denies any wrongdoing.

Kadri Veseli, who stepped down as parliament speaker after an Oct. 6 snap election forced by Haradinaj’s exit, told a news conference that he had been asked to give testimony before the court on Dec. 4. Veseli, who also denies wrongdoing, did not say whether he had been called as a suspect or a witness.

“I am convinced that this court will not only prove that the KLA was just but it will also stop the attacks against (the reputation of) our nation,” Veseli said.

The prosecutors’ office at the Specialist Chamber declined to comment.

Veseli headed the intelligence wing of the KLA from April 1999 until 2008, when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

He is the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and served as parliament speaker from 2014 until his resignation after his party came third in last month’s election.

The Specialist Chamber in The Hague is governed by Kosovo law, but staffed by international judges and prosecutors to minimize the risk of bias and intimidation and ensure those giving testimony are protected. It is funded by the European Union, which Kosovo aims to join one day.

Around 100 former KLA guerrillas have been questioned as witnesses or suspects in atrocities against Serbs during the 1998-99 conflict, but none have been indicted to date.

The KLA rose up against strongman Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, eventually winning crucial NATO air support that halted the killing and expulsion of Kosovo Albanian civilians during a brutal counter-insurgency campaign. Milosevic died in The Hague in 2006 while on trial for war crimes.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Mark Heinrich)