PRISTINA A European Union prosecutor in Kosovo indicted 11 suspects including a deputy prime minister on corruption charges on Friday.
The indictment was a fresh blow to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who has been repeatedly criticized at home and abroad for not doing enough to fight corruption.
The prosecutor accused Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi of abuse of office and corruption during six months in 2010 when he was health minister under Thaci's previous government. Other suspects are current or former health ministry officials.
"The suspects are charged with abuse of official position or authority, mistreatment in exercising duties...tax evasion and obstruction of evidence," the EU mission in Kosovo (EULEX) said in a press statement.
Bukoshi said he had not been contacted by prosecutors and denied the allegations.
"I am absolutely clean and without any involvement in tenders or any other things related to corruption and I am ready to face justice," Bukoshi told Reuters.
Earlier this week, the 25-member International Steering Group comprised of the United States and EU powers agreed to stop overseeing Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia in 2008.
It will however still be monitored by NATO peacekeepers (KFOR) and a EU police and judiciary mission (EULEX) that mainly deals with war crimes, corruption and organized crime.
The European Union has repeatedly warned Pristina to root-out organized crime and corruption and improve the rule of law if it wants to speed up its bid to ultimately join the bloc.
Charges against Bukoshi came after deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci resigned last month after parliament voted in a disputed media law. Thaci is now left with four deputy prime ministers.
Bukoshi who during the 1990s served as prime minister in exile when Kosovo was under Serbian rule is one of the highest government officials to be charged by EULEX so far.
(Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic)