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article imageKosovo PM promotes ex-fighter ahead of war crimes questioning

By AFP     Feb 5, 2019 in World

Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has appointed a wartime rebel commander as his political adviser just days before the military man's questioning by an international court probing war crimes.

Government spokeswoman Donjeta Gashi said Sylejman Selimi, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was appointed last week.

Already jailed by local judiciary for crimes committed against civilians during the 1998-99 independence war against Serbian forces that claimed 13,000 lives, Selimi was released last Friday.

Selimi, one of the most notorious KLA commanders who briefly headed the guerrillas' general headquarters, confirmed to the media that he would be interviewed next week by prosecutors based in The Hague who are part of a special court.

"I do not know in which capacity I will be interrogated," he said.

In an interview to AFP last month, Haradinaj said Kosovo would respond to all the court's demands, while adding that "there is a fatigue in Kosovo with this tribunal."

The EU-backed court was set up in 2015 to try war crimes allegedly committed by the KLA, notably against Serbs, Romas and Kosovo Albanian political opponents during and after the war.

Selimi, 48, was commander of units in the western Drenica area, one of the guerrilla strongholds where fights with Serbian forces were particularly tough.

He led civilian security until 2011, when he became Kosovo's ambassador to Albania.

However, he resigned just before being charged with torture at a KLA detention centre. He was arrested during the investigation and was sentenced in 2016 by a local court to seven years in prison.

In mid-January, the special court began interrogations in The Hague, where two other former KLA officials, Rrustem Mustafa-Remi, 47, and Sami Lushtaku, 57, were interviewed.

Kosovo media believe that first indictments are likely to be issued this year.

Among potential indictees routinely speculated in local media are top leaders, including PM Haradinaj, but also President Hashim Tha├ži and Speaker of the parliament Kadri Veseli.

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