THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Wednesday acquitted the chief suspect in the trial of three Kosovo Albanian separatists, Fatmir Limaj, of allegations of torturing and murdering Serbian and Albanian civilians at a prison camp during the 1998-1999 war.
A second defendant, Isak Musliu, was also acquitted, while the third, Haradin Bala, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for executing nine prisoners in the woods in July 1999.
An audience of several dozen friends, family and supporters applauded and roared in approval as Limaj's acquittel was announced.
In Kosovo, where Limaj is considered a hero by some, celebratory gunfire echoed through the Serbian provionce's capital Pristina and people honked their car horns.
It was the first trial of members of the NATO-backed Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought for independence from the Serbian state led by President Slobodan Milosevic.
The chief suspect Limaj, 34, a former KLA commander, was sccused of running the Lapusnik prison camp, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Kosovo's capital, Pristina.
"The chamber finds it has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused Fatmir Limaj had any role in the prison camp or in the execution in the Berishe mountains or that he has criminal responsibility for any offenses for which he is charged," Presiding Judge Kevin parker said.
Parker said the prosecution had proven the existence of the camp, but had failed to link Limaj to beatings, inhumane treatment, torture and murder.