Hashim Thaci pleaded not guilty on all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the special court in The Hague.
“The indictment is completely without basis and I plead not guilty,” the former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the country’s president until last week told the court on Monday, during his initial hearing.
Thaci is charged with six counts of crimes against humanity, namely: persecution, imprisonment, other inhumane acts, torture, murder and enforced disappearance of persons; as well as four counts of war crimes, namely: arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder.
The prosecution claims that alongside three other KLA senior figures – Jakup Krasniqi, Kadri Veseli and Rexhep Selimi, – Thaci committed the said crimes from “at least March 1998 through September 1999” in Kosovo and Northern Albania.
“I do not agree with any of [the charges],” Thaci told the court.
Thaci’s counsel David Hooper asked about the allegations of organ trafficking at the “Yellow House” in Northern Albania, mentioned in the report of Dick Marty, based on which the Court was established.
“Looking at that indictment, the defense poses this question: where are the allegations of organ theft after the war at the yellow house […]?” Hooper asked.
He added that Hashim Thaci knew that those allegations were nonsense, so he assisted in setting up the court.
“Instead we have a collection of incidents in the indictment, of events many of which have been tried by ICTY or Kosovo based courts,” Hooper said, adding that his client “disputes the entire narrative of this indictment as presented by the prosecution”.
Hooper quoted the US President-elect Joe Biden saying in 2017 that “Hashim Thaci is the George Washington of Kosovo”.
“I was very surprised when I walked in that door, and [Thaci] is there handcrafted,” Hooper said.
“[Thaci] takes it well, he is that kind of man,” he added.
It was explained by the court that that is a normal procedure and there were no exemptions.
“There is no specific treatment for your client,” said judge Nicolas Guillou.
Hooper also pointed out that there were no Kosovo state symbols at the courtroom.
“I don’t know why not, if this is a Kosovo court,” he said.
Thaci’s defense is expected to ask for his conditional release from custody in the coming weeks.
Hashim Thaci resigned as Kosovo’s President on November 5, and was taken to The Hague on the same day, together with his former KLA fellows, Kadri Veseli and Rexhep Selimi.