Kosovo president says he will resign if case goes ahead

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Kosovo president Hashim Thaci speaks during a televised address to the nation, in Pristina, Kosovo, Monday, June 29, 2020. Kosovos president on Monday denied committing war crimes during and after a 1998-1999 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia and said he would resign if the indictment is confirmed by an international war crimes court. (AP Photo/Astrit Ibrahimi)

PRISTINA – Kosovo’s president on Monday denied committing war crimes during and after a 1998-1999 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia, and said he would resign if an indictment against him is confirmed.

Hashim Thaci said in a televised address to the nation that there was no evidence he broke the law. Last week, a prosecutor at a Kosovo court based at The Hague said he had filed charges against Thaci, former Speaker Kadri Veseli and a group of other former independence fighters. They were accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The charges say they are "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders” of Serbs and Roma, as well as Kosovo Albanian political opponents, including enforced disappearances, persecution and torture. The list of charges was made public last week, but a pretrial judge at The Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers hasn't made a decision on whether to proceed with the case or throw it out.

Thaci was confident that the case wouldn't go ahead.

“If the accusation is confirmed, I will immediately resign as your president and face the accusations,” he said.

Thaci was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation army, or KLA, that fought for independence from Serbia. The fighting left more than 10,000 dead — most of them ethnic Albanians — and 1,641 are still unaccounted for. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign in 1999 that forced Serbian troops to stop their brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanians and leave Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Serbia refuses to recognize.

Thaci’s indictment led to the postponement of a White House meeting between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia which was organized by U.S presidential envoy Richard Grenell. They would have been the first official talks between Serbia and Kosovo in 19 months. Thaci was traveling to Washington for the discussions when the indictment was announced.