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Kosovo judge suspended for disclosing his vote

Kosovo judge suspended for disclosing his vote

Kosovo's justice watchdog suspended an ethnic Albanian judge on Friday for saying he voted against the verdict that found three former ethnic Albanian rebels guilty of war crimes in Kosovo's 1998-99 war.
The Kosovo Judicial Council said in a statement Rrahman Ratkoceri "committed a grave breach" of conduct and has been suspended from office.
Ratkoceri told Kosovo media he disclosed his vote after receiving threats following last week's ruling of a EU-run court that sentenced the three former guerrillas.
He was part of three-member panel, two of whom were international judges. The way individual judges vote is confidential.
The EU is in charge of prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo because local courts have been reluctant to prosecute former guerrillas, who are seen as liberators by most ethnic Albanians.
Last week's verdict was the first high profile case since the EU mission deployed in Kosovo last year.
It found Rrustem Mustafa, a former commander in the now defunct Kosovo Liberation Army and two of his associates guilty of "war crimes through inhumane treatment of civilian detainees and ... beating and torture of civilian detainees."
Mustafa, a Kosovo lawmaker and deputy leader of the governing party, was sentenced to four years, Latif Gashi was sentenced to six years and Nazif Mehmeti to three years. They said they will appeal the verdict.
The three were initially convicted by a U.N.-run court in 2003, but Kosovo's Supreme Court in 2005 ordered a retrial.
Mustafa branded the ruling unjust and blamed the EU-run court for bias.
Kosovo's government, which is led by the former rebel leader Hashim Thaci, called the verdict "bad news for Kosovo."
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia last year with strong backing from the U.S. and major European countries.
Its statehood is fiercely rejected by Serbia that has vowed never to recognize Kosovo's independence.