Salih Mustafa pleaded not guilty on Wednesday on four counts following charges by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague, which is set to try suspects for crimes committed during and after the Kosovo war.
A former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander, Mustafa is charged with arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder. He pleaded not guilty on each count.
In his hearing, Mustafa said that Kosovo people had no other choice but to organize against the “fascist” regime of the “butcher” Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader during the war.
“Trusting the morals of my co-warriors, and being deeply convinced that the KLA freedom war was fair, indispensable and necessary, because of Slobodan Milosevic’s long occupation and genocidal fascist regime, as well as after the bloody wars of this butcher in Croatia and Bosnia, we did not have many choices,” Mustafa told the court.
“The choices were either to end up in refugee camps, with no motherland, no honor, no freedom, or to organize ourselves into a resistance that culminated in the liberation war for freedom, independence and a democratic state,” Mustafa stated.
Salih Mustafa is the first Kosovo citizen to be before the Specialist Chambers with a confirmed indictment. His was the first arrested by The Hague-based court in late September.
Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and the former speaker of Parliament, Kadri Veseli are among those accused by prosecutors, but who are waiting for their indictments to be confirmed.
The 6-month period for the judge to decide on whether to confirm charges ended on Saturday.
However, possible charges against them may not be public until the accused appear before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.