A former Albanian independence guerrilla commander compared the international tribunal to Nazi Germany’s secret police when his trial opened in The Hague on Wednesday.
Salih Mustafa, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), is accused of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder during the war with Serbia (1998-1999).
“I am not guilty of any of the charges brought against me by this Gestapo office“Salih Mustafa, 49, said at the opening of his trial at the Special Tribunal for Kosovo (KSC).
Arrested last year while working as an adviser for the Defense Ministry, Salih Mustafa is the first to be tried before this special court since its creation in 2015.
Prosecutors said he and his men have “brutalized and tortured“Kosovar Albanian compatriots whom they accused of collaborating with the Serbs in Zllash, a village east of the capital Pristina.
“They weren’t enemies of Kosovo, they weren’t spies“Senior Prosecutor Jack Smith told the court in his opening speech.”Their only crime was to have political views different from the KLA and its senior leaders.“.
The prosecutor said the hearing was a “milestone“of the tribunal, which took six years to bring someone to justice and faced witness intimidation issues.
Salih Mustafa is accused of murder, torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention of at least six detainees.
The trial will hear 16 witnesses during further hearings to be held in September and October.