A top Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander turned popular politician has pleaded not guilty to ordering torture and killings during the 1998-99 Kosovo war at his trial in Pristina. The trial is expected to conclude in the early part of 2012 and is regarded as one of the most high-profile cases in Kosovo since the end of the war.
Fatmir Limaj entered the plea at the start of his trial which is being heard before a three-member panel chaired by British judge Jonathan Welford-Carroll, a member of Zenith Chambers in Leeds. Limja is represented by British barrister Karim Khan.
Limaj, a former leader of the KLA who fought for independence from Serbia, is charged with committing war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war. Prosecutors allege that eight prisoners, seven Serbs and one Albanian, were killed by Limaj's subordinates in a prison camp under his command.
Italian prosecutor Maurizio Salustro described Limaj as "the person who exercised overall control of the Klecka detention centre," where the Albanian civilians and Serbian military prisoners held by the KLA in Klecka were kept in "inhumane conditions" with not enough food, lack of basic sanitation and suffering "frequent beatings. He is accused of personally torturing a Serbian prisoner in the Klecka prison, located 30km southwest of Pristina, and ordered his men to execute two Serb policemen.
If convicted he faces a maximum prison sentence of 40 years.
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