Massive Protest in Prishtina Against Start of Thaci Trial in Hague. Photo courtesy of ideator of “Freedom has a name”.

Massive Protest in Prishtina Against Start of Thaçi Trial in Hague

A large number of people protested in the capital against the trial of former KLA leaders, ahead of its start on Monday.

It was difficult to count all the buses parked at the Youth Palace in Prishtina. All Sunday morning, they brought people from all corners of Kosovo to the capital, Prishtina, to protest against the start of the war crimes trial of ex-President Hashim Thaci and three other former guerrilla leaders.

The trial of the former guerrilla leader turned-head-of-state, Hashim Thaci, the ex-head of parliament, Kadri Veseli, former MP Rexhep Selimi and another ex- head of parliament, Jakup Krasniqi, was due to start on Monday in The Hague.

“On this day, we proudly march for those who once marched towards freedom. I am grateful to all of you who gave this image to Kosovo today. This image is the clearest message that our freedom has a name,” said the head of Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, Memli Krasniqi.

Photo: Blerta Begisholli/Prishtina Inisght

Eliza Hoxha, a PDK MP and one of the organizers of the march, said that she had relived the history of Kosovo for the past two weeks.

“The Kosovo Liberation Army unites us all, the call for justice unites us all,” she said during her speech in front of thousands of citizens.

“It’s a big injustice,” said Islam Rafuna, 67, a citizen from Gjilan who was carrying a banner of Thaci and others. He couldn’t finish his sentence, as tears blurred his eyes.

Ismajl Tasholli, one of the organizers and the ideator of “Freedom has a name” said the KLA represented the most sublime values of the nation.

“As a child, I did not understand all the weight of what was going on, but it was a battle between the good and bad, freedom and slavery, life and death. I felt inequality in my stomach,” he said.

Photo: Blerta Begisholli/Prishtina Inisght

The Office of the Specialized Prosecutor has filed an indictment against Thaçi, Veseli, Selimi and Krasniqi, charging them with war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are suspected to have been committed during the war in Kosovo.

All four became senior politicians after the end of the 1998-9 war: Thaci became Kosovo’s president, Veseli became parliamentary speaker and leader of the PDK, Krasniqi was chairman of the national council of the Social Democratic Initiative, NISMA party, and Selimi was the head of the Vetevendosje party’s parliamentary group of MPs.

They are accused of responsibility for murders, torture, illegal detentions and other crimes committed at wartime KLA detention centres.

On the streets of the capital, Prishtina, there was concern about whether the Specialist Chambers, a “hybrid” court that is part of Kosovo’s justice system but based in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals, can actually deliver justice.

There was also anger that the court was set up to prosecute KLA fighters rather than the Serbs who committed the majority of the war crimes in 1998-99.

Other former members of KLA, Pjetër Shala, Nasim Haradinaj, Hysni Gucati and Salih Mustafa are also being judged by the Special Court.

03/04/2023 - 11:39

03 April 2023 - 11:39

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.