Kosovo court jails ex-guerrilla fighter for war crimes

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) " A Kosovo court with international judges has convicted a former ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighter of war crimes against civilians after the Kosovo war ended.

A statement Monday from the rule of law mission, known as EULEX, said Xhemshit Krasniqi was sentenced to eight years in prison for the "arrest, illegal detention, violation of bodily integrity, health and torture of several witnesses and unknown civilians." He was also handed a 1,500 euro ($1,660) fine.

EULEX said the crimes were carried out in Kosovo Liberation Army camps in Kukes and Cahan in Albania, as well as in Prizren in Kosovo in 1999. It did not mention specific cases or names of victims but added that "the accused carried out his actions in co-perpetration with other KLA members."

A Council of Europe report in 2010 claimed that leaders of the now disbanded KLA were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanians suspected of collaborating with the Serbs. The report said this happened during the summer of 1999, after NATO's 78-day bombing forced Serb forces to withdraw from Kosovo.

The brief power vacuum that summer enabled the alleged organized persecution of non-Albanian minorities and political opponents.

Clint Williamson, a U.S. prosecutor who led the task force set up to investigate the allegations, has said there is collected compelling evidence that the KLA leadership sanctioned crimes that included "unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances (and) illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania."

A special war crimes court for those matters was created last year following pressure from Kosovo's Western backers.

Some 10,000 people died and 1,700 went missing during the 1998-1999 war as Kosovo fought to break away from Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has vowed never to recognize the move.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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