Kosovo's ambassador to Albania cleared of beating women during war

PRISTINA Thu May 29, 2014 9:41am EDT

Commander of the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) General Sylejman Selimi inspects troops in Pristina January 21, 2009.  REUTERS/Hazir Reka

Commander of the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) General Sylejman Selimi inspects troops in Pristina January 21, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Hazir Reka

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PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's ambassador to neighboring Albania was cleared on Thursday of war crimes over the alleged beating and torture of two women during a 1998-99 war in the former Serbian province.

Sylejman Selimi, who still holds the post of ambassador to Albania, was arrested last year by the EU's police and justice mission in Kosovo, which handles sensitive war crimes case.

"He was cleared of all charges and I can proudly say that justice was finally served," Selimi's lawyer, Tome Gashi, told Reuters.

Gashi said Selimi was accused of beating and torturing two ethnic Albanian women in 1998 at the headquarters of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of which he was a senior commander.

Three co-defendants were also cleared, including one on charges of sexual violence. The court was presided over by a panel of foreign judges working under EU auspices.

EU prosecutors said they would consider whether to appeal. "We recognize the importance this case has for the people in Kosovo and the victims in this case," it said in a statement.

Selimi still faces charges in a separate war crimes case over a KLA detention camp.

Selimi is a former head of the Kosovo Security Force, a lightly-armed civil protection and crisis response force of 2,500 members trained by NATO.

The EU mission, established after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, handles sensitive war crimes cases, in a country where the former guerrillas are revered as heroes for their insurgency against Serbian forces.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Toby Chopra)

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