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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Ex-KLA chiefs jailed for war crimes
By Nicholas Wood
In Pristina

Skull of victim from a massacre in Podujevo
The crimes took place in Podujevo, northern Kosovo
A court in Kosovo has jailed four ethnic Albanians for war crimes committed during the 1998 and 1999 conflict in the province.

The group, all former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, were found guilty of illegal detention, kidnapping and torture.

United Nations officials are calling this the most significant war crimes trial to be held in the Serbian province since the end of the conflict.

Rustem Mustafa: 17 yrs
Nazif Mehmeti: 13 yrs
Latif Gashi: 10 yrs
Naim Kadriu: 5 yrs
The accused included one of the Kosovo Liberation Army's top former commanders, Rustem Mustafa, and his chief of intelligence, Latif Gashi.

The court found them and two others guilty of imprisoning at least 13 men in a tiny shack and torturing them between August 1998 and May 1999.

Five of the men were later found nearby in graves with bullet wounds to the heart and head.

Diary of beatings

A sixth prisoner is still missing.

Critical to the prosecution's case was a diary kept by one of the convicted men, Naim Kadriu, during the war.

This is not against the KLA but this is against individuals who committed crimes
Judge Timothy Clayson
The journal contained descriptions of how the men were beaten and what they were suspected of.

The KLA accused the prisoners of collaborating with the Serbs.

The case has aroused huge interest in Kosovo. As well as being a former senior KLA commander, Rustem Mustafa has emerged as one of Kosovo's most senior businessmen since the end of the war.

His lawyers disputed the UN mission's right to try him and his men for crimes committed before the mission came into existence.

His relatives sat in silence as an international panel of judges read out his sentence - 17 years.

Gashi received 10 for his part, and their co-defendants five and 13 years, making the sentences the toughest ever given out by a war crimes trial in Kosovo.

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