First Trial of Kosovo Ex-Guerrilla Opens at Hague War Crimes Court

Former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA unit commander Salih Mustafa went on trial at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers on Wednesday, charged with involvement in murder, torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detentions during the Kosovo war in April 1999.

"Today marks a milestone for this institution and our work," prosecutor Jack Smith said in his opening statement on Wednesday.

Mustafa is accused of committing the crimes at a KLA-run detention compound in Zllash/Zlas in Kosovo, against prisoners accused by the guerrilla fighters of collaborating with enemy Serbs or not supporting the KLA's cause.

"You will see the victims of Mr. Mustafa were fellow Kosovo Albanians… They were not enemies of the state of Kosovo, they were not spies, they were fellow community members," prosecutor Smith told the court.

"The truth to be laid out in this court in the upcoming week is that KLA leaders… managed to victimise and brutalise fellow Kosovo Albanians who had different opinions from KLA leaders" or were part of a rival ethnic Albanian political force, the Democratic League of Kosovo, said Smith.

"In the course of this case you will hear from victims who have waited two decades to be heard for crimes committed against them and their family members", including the relatives of a victim who did not survive, the prosecutor added.

Mustafa's indictment alleges that he was part of a "joint criminal enterprise", alongside "certain other KLA soldiers, police, and guards", which had a "shared common purpose to interrogate and mistreat detainees".

The defendant told the court on Wednesday that he understands the indictment, "but there is nothing real about it".

"I am not guilty anything that this Gestapo is blaming me for," Mustafa added...

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