Hashim Thaci, the former President of Kosovo, entered a not-guilty plea to 10 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr. Hashim Thaci went on trial with three co-defendants on Monday.
Accused of killing nearly 100 individuals and committing other atrocities such as enforced disappearances.
The allegations stem from Kosovo’s independence conflict with Serbia in 1998-1999, during which over 10,000 people died.
Mr. Thaci was a co-founder of an independence movement and is viewed as a hero in Kosovo.
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was founded in the early 1990s as a militant group of ethnic Albanians in what was then a province of Serbia.
The KLA is accused of carrying out attacks on the region’s ethnic Serb minority during the conflict.
When Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Mr. Thaci became its first prime minister and subsequently president but resigned in 2020 to face the charges in The Hague.
Victims and human rights organizations are hoping that the outcome of his trial will shed light on the fate of the thousands of persons who disappeared during the conflict.
According to the indictment, the crimes occurred in over 100 sites throughout Kosovo and northern Albania, where Serb civilians were reportedly detained, mistreated, or murdered.
The prosecution made opening remarks during the trial. Defense attorneys and a representative of Kosovo’s war victims’ council will also be heard by the judges.
Mr. Thaci is on trial with former Kosovo parliament speaker Kadri Veseli, former KLA spokesman Jakup Krasniqi, and former KLA leader Rexhep Selimi.
All four co-defendants, who were friends during and after the conflict, have denied any wrongdoing.
“I understand the indictment, and I am completely innocent,” Mr. Thaci stated during the trial.
Kosovo’s independence movement started in 1989, following Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s decision to deprive the province of its self-government status.
Tensions escalated into a full-fledged war in 1998, which concluded only after a Nato air campaign against Serbia forced Serbian troops to leave the province.
Kosovo declared unilateral independence in 2008 and has been recognized by 99 of the 193 UN member states, but not by Serbia.
In its first case, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers sentenced KLA commander Salih Mustafa to 26 years in prison for running a torture facility.
He has filed an appeal against his sentence.
Ramush Haradinaj, the former Kosovan Prime Minister, was prosecuted twice and acquitted at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia between 2007 and 2012.