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War Crimes Court Sentences Kosovo Veterans To Prison For Witness Intimidation.

Nasim Haradinaj appears in court at the start of his trial in October 2021 at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

Nasim Haradinaj appears in court at the start of his trial in October 2021 at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

A war crimes court in The Hague has sentenced two Kosovo war veterans to 4 1/2 years in prison each after finding them guilty of witness intimidation, obstructing the administration of justice, and violating the secrecy of court proceedings.

Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj, the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans Association, had pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial in October at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

Witness intimidation has been a major problem as investigators built their cases, and the court has struggled to protect people who offer to assist its investigations.

"This judgment clearly paints those acts for what they are: criminal and not patriotic," presiding Judge Charles Smith said as he sentenced Gucati and Haradinaj on May 18.

The court is mandated to investigate and prosecute suspects in war crimes committed during Kosovo's 1998-99 guerrilla war against rule from Belgrade.

Gucati and Haradinaj were acquitted of the charge of seeking retaliation.

The two will each have to pay a 100-euro ($105) fines and the time spent in detention on remand will be deducted from the sentence. They have been in custody since September 2020.

The veterans' association represents former ethnic Albanian separatists who fought Serbian troops during the Kosovo war, in which more than 10,000 people were killed.

The most prominent Kosovar to be indicted to date is former President Hashim Thaci on charges of murder, torture, and persecution. He has denied the charges.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after the end of the fighting.

The United States and most of the West recognize Kosovo’s independence. Serbia does not, however, and tensions between Kosovo and Serbia persist.

With reporting by AFP

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