Kadri Veseli, one of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) pleaded not guilty to all the war crimes charges raised by Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office based in The Hague.
“I heard the charges and I read them. Allow me to say with full conviction that I am not guilty in relation to all the charges in the indictment,” Veseli told the judge on Monday during his initial appearance before the court.
The indictment for war crimes against the leader of Kosovo Democratic Party (PDK) was confirmed on October 26 by pre-trial judge Nicolas Guillou of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.
Veseli is charged with six counts of crimes against humanity, namely: persecution, imprisonment, other inhumane acts, torture, murder and enforced disappearance of persons; and four counts of war crimes, namely: arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder.
The Prosecution claims that alongside three other KLA senior figures, Hashim Thaci, Jakup Krasniqi and Rexhep Selimi, Veseli committed the crimes from “April 1998 to August 1999” in several locations in Kosovo and Northern Albania.
Veseli’s counsel, Ben Emmerson told the court that the public should be aware of the fact that his client came before the court as a result of a voluntary surrender agreement with prosecution in advance, although reference was made to him having being arrested.
Emmerson said that he was asked by Veseli to emphasize the statement his client issued on the day he surrendered to authorities.
“[The court] is the embodiment of the principle that there is no peace without justice and no justice without peace,” Emmerson quoted Veseli.
“There should be no resentment directed towards the internationals who work at the tribunal. They are only doing what we, the people of Kosovo, have asked them to do. This tribunal is part of Kosovo’s journey to Statehood, and we must see it through to the end,” he added, concluding the opening remarks.
Emmerson added that the defense will ask for his client’s release pending trial shortly after the initial appearance.
Kadri Veseli is a former parliament speaker who also served as the chief of the Kosovo Intelligence Service after the war.
Until the day he surrendered to the Hague authorities, Veseli was serving as the leader of the Kosovo Democratic Party.