The Hague: Former prime minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj and his two Kosovo Liberation Army comrades were cleared of murder and torture charges in a retrial by UN war crimes tribunal on Thursday.
Former Kosovo PM along with KLA fighters Idriz Balaj Lahi Brahimaj were cleared of war crimes charges and the trio is expected to be released later Thursday and flown home to Kosovo.
Haradinaj, who was an ex-Kosovo Liberation Army fighter, was earlier acquitted in 2008, but the verdict was reversed after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittal of former Prime Minister and KLA fighter Idriz Balaj and the conviction of a third KLA commander, Lahi Brahimaj a "miscarriage of justice" because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.
Applause rang around the courtroom's public gallery, packed with supporters of the three defendants, when Presiding Judge Bakone Moloto delivered the verdicts.
Haradinaj and his two KLA comrades were indicted in 2005 and were alleged to have been involved in manslaughter of Serbs and Albanians at detention camps in western Kosovo.
It was alleged that ethnic serbs and Albanians were tortured and killed at such camps, with 39 bodies found.
Haradinaj’s acquittal paves the way for his return to Kosovo politics.
For Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, which has been in decline since his trial, the return could herald a new era.
In Kosovo, large posters welcoming him back were hung well before the decision was announced in The Hague and speculation was rife that Haradinaj would join the country's ruling coalition of former fellow fighter but current political rival, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci as he looks to broaden the range of participants and share public responsibility in crucial talks with Serbia.
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said before Thursday's announcement that Haradinaj's acquittal would have serious consequences for the EU-brokered negotiations between him and his Kosovo counterpart Thaci. But Dacic suggested that Serbia would not pull out of the talks that are expected to resume in early December.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012, 15:04