|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-323224 Haradinaj/Hague (L-O)
HEADLINE: Former Kosovo Prime Minister Pleads Not Guilty to War Crimes
INTRO: Facing a string of serious charges, Ramush Haradinaj (rah-MOOSH hah-rah-DEE-n-eye) - the former prime minister of Kosovo - pleaded not guilty Monday to crimes against humanity at the tribunal in The Hague. Tom Rivers in London is monitoring developments.
TEXT: "Not guilty," was the reply Ramush Haradinaj made to each of the 37 charges read out in this his first court appearance in The Hague.
The 36-year-old resigned as Kosovo's prime minister last week to face charges of murder, rape, and the deportation of Serbs during the separatist war in 1998 and '99 when he was a regional rebel leader in the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Prosecutors say he controlled an area in western Kosovo where he is alleged to have mounted a systematic campaign to drive ethnic Serbs out of the region.
Along with Mr. Haradinaj, two of his former Kosovo Liberation Army aides each are facing 35 similar counts in the same indictment. Both of them have pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Haradinaj is the most senior former Kosovo Albanian to be indicted over the conflict against Serb forces. He is considered by ethnic Albanians to be a hero.
His surrender to the court last week was applauded by the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. He says he did so to clear his name and prove his innocence.
He has called the evidence against him an attempt to discredit the Kosovo Liberation Army by those said to be close to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Mr. Milosevic has been on trial in The Hague for the past three years facing charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo in the 1990s.
If convicted on any of the 37 charges, Mr. Hardinaj could face life imprisonment. (SIGNED)
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