Kosovo president Thaci resigns to face war crimes trial

Former parliamentary speaker Krasniqi was arrested in Pristina by EU police

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, a guerrilla leader during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia in the 1990s, resigned on Thursday in order to face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague, news wires reported.

“I resign today from the position of president,” Thaci told a news conference in the Kosovo capital Pristina, adding that his sources had informed him that the judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chamber in The Hague had confirmed his indictment. “He will not allow me to appear before the court as president, therefore, in order to protect the integrity of the state, I resign today,” Thaci said. He added that the head of Kosovo's parliament will be acting president until a new one is elected.

Thaci was indicted by a Kosovo court based in The Hague which was set up to try alleged crimes of former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders. A spokesman for the prosecutor in The Hague told the Associated Press that he had no comment on Thaci's announcement.

In July, Thaci, who is the former senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrilla group, met the prosecutors in The Hague to discuss alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during Kosovo's 1998-99 uprising against Serbian rule. Prosecutors hold Thaci responsible for nearly 100 murders of civilians during the war. He denies any wrongdoing.

The Specialist Chamber was set up in The Hague in 2015 to handle cases of alleged crimes by KLA guerrillas during the war that led to Kosovo's independence from Serbia a decade later. The court is governed by Kosovo law but is staffed by international judges and prosecutors.

Meanwhile, a day earlier, the former ethnic Albanian rebel spokesman and Kosovo politician Jakup Krasniqi was arrested in Pristina and transferred to a court in The Hague. “Jakup Krasniqi was arrested today and transferred to the detention facilities of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) in The Hague,” the tribunal said in a statement late Wednesday. Krasniqi will face charges related to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the statement added.

Krasniqi's arrest was carried out after heavily-armed European Union police raided his home on the outskirts of the capital and searched the premises for several hours, AFP reported.

Krasniqi, 69, is a Kosovar politician who now holds the post of chairman of the National Council of the Social Democratic Initiative, a junior party in the governing coalition. He is former parliamentary speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo. Krasniqi even served twice for a short period of time as the acting President of Kosovo in 2010 and 2011 following resignations of two presidents in succession. During the 1998-99 conflict, Krasniqi was the spokesman for the KLA. In late September, former KLA commander Salih Mustafa became the first person to appear before the court, facing charges including murder and torture.

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