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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 18:50 GMT
Kosovo ex-PM in war crimes trial
Ramush Haradinaj arrives for his initial appearance at The Hague tribunal in March 2005
Ramush Haradinaj (R) was the KLA's commander in western Kosovo
The trial of Kosovo's former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity has begun at The Hague tribunal.

He is accused of taking part in a conspiracy to drive Serbs out of Kosovo through murder, rape and torture.

"Be in no doubt that this warlord, his lieutenant and his jailer have blood on their hands," Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte said as the trial opened.

Mr Haradinaj and two former colleagues deny all the 37 charges against them.

Mr Haradinaj resigned and surrendered himself to the tribunal in March 2005.

He and his co-defendants, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, could face life imprisonment if convicted of any of the charges.

The former prime minister's defence lawyer told the court: "Mr Haradinaj fought an honourable war. Its targets were combatants, not civilians."

Suspected collaborators

Mr Haradinaj, 38, was a senior leader in the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought a separatist campaign against Yugoslav forces during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

He is the highest-ranking Kosovo Albanian to face trial in The Hague.

He is accused of masterminding the campaign to expel the Serb minority from the Dukagjin region of Kosovo during the war.

Idriz Balaj was commander of a special unit of the KLA, the Black Eagles, and Lahi Brahimaj was one of Mr Haradinaj's deputies.

Together, they are accused of atrocities against Serbs, Roma, and ethnic Albanians suspected of collaboration.

Mr Haradinaj was elected prime minister of the Serbian province, which has been administered by the United Nations since the war, at the end of 2004.

But he stepped down after just three months in office following the publication of his indictment.

Many Kosovo Albanians remain enthusiastic supporters of Mr Haradinaj, says the BBC's South-east Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos.

And as leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, the junior partner in Kosovo's government, he remains a powerful politician.

Uniquely among war crimes suspects, the tribunal has allowed him to carry out political activities while awaiting trial, because he has been urging calm in the province.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Courtroom scenes from the start of the trial



SEE ALSO
Indicted PM still Kosovo 'hero'
11 Mar 05 |  Europe
Profile: Ramush Haradinaj
09 Mar 05 |  Europe
Text: Interview with Kosovo PM
17 Jan 05 |  Europe
Timeline: Kosovo
08 Mar 05 |  Country profiles

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