THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Kosovo's former prime minister, who resigned last week and surrendered to a U.N. court, on Monday pleaded not guilty to war crimes charges at the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Ramush Haradinaj (search), 36, stood when asked to respond to the first of 37 charges being brought by U.N. (search) prosecutors for his alleged role in abuses against Serb, Albanians and Gypsy civilians during the 1998-1999 war against Serbia.
Two other ethnic Kosovo Albanian suspects named in the indictment, Lahi Brahimaj and Idriz Balaj, also surrendered to U.N. authorities Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to allegations detailed at their first court appearance.
The men, flanked by blue-clad U.N. guards and dressed in dark suits and ties, denied dozens of allegations resulting from their activities as former commanders in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which waged a war of independence against Serbian forces.
A former commander of the backed Kosovo Liberation Army (search), Haradinaj was accused of superior responsibility for the rape, murder and torture of Serb and Gypsy civilians by Albanian separatists under his control in the western region of the southern Serb province.
He also was accused of personal participation in beatings and torture, including the beatings of Albanian civilians who were believed to have collaborated with Serbs.
Haradinaj is the highest-ranking Kosovo Albanian to be indicted by the tribunal and his case is one of the most high-profile since the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.