A European Union judge has decided to put a senior Kosovo politician and former rebel leader on trial for the alleged execution and torture of Serb prisoners during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, officials said Friday.
The decision confirms the allegations made in an indictment filed by a EU prosecutor that Fatmir Limaj _ a top former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army _ ordered the execution of two captured Serb policemen "with gunshots to the head" and tortured another Serb captive. He is one of 11 former rebels to be tried for war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war.
The crimes allegedly took place in central Kosovo between early 1999 and June 1999, when Kosovo came under U.N. and NATO control.
There was no immediate reaction from Limaj, who in the past has said he had no regrets over his past as a member of the ethnic Albania guerrilla movement that fought a separatist war against Serbia. Limaj's attorney, Tome Gashi, said no date was set for the trial.
Initially, the EU's rule of law mission in Kosovo issued an arrest warrant for Limaj, but after legal wrangling with Kosovo authorities, the 3,000-strong mission backed away from the arrest saying Limaj was protected by immunity as a member of Kosovo's parliament.
Limaj is also under investigation for alleged embezzlement of public funds when he served as transport minister in Kosovo's previous government.
In 2005, a U.N. war crimes court cleared the former rebel commander of charges he tortured and killed ethnic Albanian detainees in a prison camp in central Kosovo. At the time, the court said there was not enough evidence to prove the allegations.
Following pressure from international officials in Kosovo not to include corrupt officials in Kosovo's Cabinet, he was forced to stay out of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's second term in government after winning the December general elections.