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Kosovo Albanian jailed for murdering Serb

March 04, 2009 7:54 AM

PRISTINA, Kosovo-A panel of European Union-led judges convicted a former ethnic Albanian rebel of war crimes Wednesday and sentenced him to 17 years in prison.

Gani Gashi, 59, was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm, said Karin Limdal, a spokesman for the EU's police-and-justice mission in Kosovo.

The trial is the first of its kind since the European Union took over the justice system from the United Nations late last year. The international judges are in charge of sensitive cases such as war crimes. Two of the three judges were from European Union countries, as was the prosecutor.

Gashi was a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1998 when he fired at a family of four trying to escape fighting between guerrillas and Serb forces in central Kosovo. The family's father was killed; the mother, son and grandchild were severely wounded.

The verdict came a day after Serb judges and prosecutors in Kosovo's ethnically divided northern town of Mitrovica blocked European Union judges from trying two Serbs suspected of robbery. The blockade highlighted the difficulties the union's largest-ever police-and-justice mission faces in functioning in Serb-dominated areas.

The Serb minority is suspicious of the European Union mission, saying it supports Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Deployment of the European Union mission was approved after Kosovo declared independence, in hopes of promoting the rule of law. But the deployment was stalled in part because of objections from Serbia, which insists Kosovo remains part of its territory.

Kosovo's independence from Serbia last year has been recognized by more than 50 countries, including the United States and most European Union nations. But Serbia, supported by Russia, rejects Kosovo's statehood.


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