Serbia files war crimes charges against 17 Kosovo ex-rebels
BELGRADE - Serbian prosecutors filed war crimes charges yesterday against 17 former Kosovo guerrillas for the alleged murder, rape, and torture of Serb civilians.
The indictment said the suspects are charged in connection with the kidnapping of 159 Serbs and the deaths of at least 51 of them in the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane in the wake of Kosovo’s 1998-99 war.
They are charged with “murder, rape, detention, mutilation, torture, and looting,’’ the indictment said. The charges carry up to 20 years in jail.
Nine of the 17 men were arrested in December in a predominantly Albanian-populated region of Serbia bordering Kosovo. Eight of the suspects are at large and were charged in absentia.
Defense lawyers for the suspects were expected to be appointed after the charges were filed. The families of those arrested have said they are innocent.
The war in Kosovo - then a province of Serbia - began with an ethnic Albanian separatist rebellion against the Serbian rule, and ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia’s army and police to pull out of Kosovo.