Jakup Krasniqi (L) appears together with Kadri Veseli (R) before the Kosovo tribunal, in the Hague, the Netherlands, 03 April 2023. EPA-EFE/Koen van Weel / POOL

War Crime Allegations ‘Absurd’, Kosovo Ex-Guerrilla Tells Court

As opening statements in the trial of four high-profile ex-guerrillas in The Hague concluded, former Kosovo Liberation Army spokesperson Jakup Krasniqi told the court that he did not commit any crime during or after the war.

Jakup Krasniqi told the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague during opening statements in the case against him and three other ex-guerrillas that he denies the charges, some of which he described as “absurd”.

Krasniqi, 72, told the court he had nothing to do with the war crimes and crimes against humanity mentioned in the indictment.

“I have not committed any crime before, during and after the war,” Krasniqi told the court.

“I have always acted with honesty for freedom and national unification, which has been among my lifelong goals,” he added.

Krasniqi is on trial alongside Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli and Rexhep Selimi, all former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA leaders who later became senior politicians. The other three men’s lawyers gave their opening statements to the court on Tuesday.

A history teacher by profession, Krasniqi was arrested back in 1981 for his political activities against communist Yugoslavia and served ten years in prison.

After his release in 1991, he became part of Ibrahim Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK political party until the Kosvo Liberation Army, KLA took over his region of Drenica in the first year of the guerrilla force’s war against Yugoslav forces and Serbian police in 1998.

Part of the indictment accuses the defendants of the persecution of members of the LDK, a party that advocated peaceful resistance against Serbia’s regime during the 1990s. But Krasniqi refuted the allegations.

“It is absurd to be accused of persecution of LDK members. I have been LDK member myself. My family members, my comrades-in-arms were LDK members too,” he said.

“Only a perverted mind could think that I am part of the persecution of myself and my family members,” he added.

The four defendants are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war.

They are accused of having individual and command responsibility for crimes that were mainly committed against prisoners who were held at a series of detention facilities set up by the KLA in Kosovo and neighbouring Albania, including 102 murders.

Venkateswari Alagendra, Krasniqi’s lawyer, argued that “spokespersons are not involved in military operational issues” and that his client did not have the authority that the prosecution claims he exercised.

“Their role is contact and public relations. This is the role Krasniqi exercised in that time… His activities cannot be linked with pretended crimes,” said Alagendra.

Krasniqi’s statements and press releases issued by the KLA General Staff during the war 1998-99 are being used by the prosecution as evidence.

But Krasniqi said that his statements as spokesperson during the conflict “should be seen as part of propaganda made to affirm our liberation war”.

“In my role as KLA spokesperson, I have tried to create a perception that we are an organised structure, just to keep hope among the people [of Kosovo],” he said.

In its opening statements on Monday, the prosecution claimed that the KLA had a well-structured chain of command that allowed the accused, as leaders, to be aware of what was happening on the ground and have control over it.

But defence teams are arguing that the four men did not have control over members of what was a loosely-organised guerrilla force without a rigid military structure.

05/04/2023 - 15:49

05 April 2023 - 15:49

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