The president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, resigned Thursday to face war crimes charges at a special court in the Hague.
Thaci, a former guerilla leader during Kosovo’s war for independence from Sebria, announced he was stepping down at a press conference in the capital Pristina.
“I will not allow under any circumstances that I appear before court as the president of the Republic of Kosovo. Therefore, in order to protect the integrity of the office of the president and the country, as well as the dignity of the citizens, I resign from the position of president of the Republic of Kosovo,” he told journalists.
Thaci was indicted by a Kosvo court based in the Dutch city that was created to try alleged crimes of former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders.
A spokesman for the prosecutor in The Hague told The Associated Press that he had no comment on Thaci’s announcement.
Thaci is one of several politicians who have been indicted for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture.
Among them is also a former parliament speaker, Kadri Veseli, who also said that he has been issued an indictment by a pre-trial judge and that he planned to travel to the The Hague on Thursday.
Three other former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought for independence from Serbia have been charged with war crimes by the court and an associated Special Prosecutor’s Office established five years ago.
Exact details of the 10-count indictment against Thaci, Veseli and others have not ben released. Announcing the existence of the indictment earlier this year, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office alleged that Thaci and others were “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders.”
With its majority Albanian population, Kosovo had been a province of Serbia before the Albanians rebelled against Belgrade’s rule. A series of guerrilla attacks quickly expanded into a war that was marked by a brutal crackdown by Serbian forces.
More than 10,000 people died in the Kosovo conflict, most of them ethnic Albanians. The fighting ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign in 1999 that forced Serbian troops to retreat.
Thaci has been president since 2016 having previously served as prime minister. In recent years he has taken part in talks aimed at normalizing ties with Serbia, which still rejects Kosovo’s independence.
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