The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court will on Thursday hand down judgement for Kosovo's ex-prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and two comrades in arms who were re-tried because of witness intimidation.
Haradinaj, 44 and Idriz Balaj, 41, face six war-crime charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for allegedly murdering and torturing Serbs and non-Albanians during Kosovo's brutal 1998-99 war for independence from Belgrade.
The third accused, Lahi Brahimaj, 42, faces four counts at the Hague-based tribunal for his role in the fight between independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas and the Belgrade forces of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
The trial will be broadcast live on a giant screen in the Kosovo capital Pristina, where Haradinaj is considered a hero by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority who have high hopes of an acquittal.
Around 30 supporters arrived at the court to await the verdict, including family members.
"We are 99-percent sure that he will be freed," Betim Haradinaj, 14, said of his uncle.
"The whole of Kosovo is demanding him back, he will be prime minister for sure."
But senior Serbian officials have warned that should Haradinaj walk, EU-sponsored talks between Pristina and Belgrade -- which still considers Kosovo to be its southern province -- could be jeopardised.
An acquittal would be perceived as a new slap in the face in Belgrade after the court earlier this month acquitted Croatian General Ante Gotovina of war crimes against Serbs.
A Kosovo Albanian walks past a billboard featuring the portrait of Kosovo's ex-prime minister Ramush Haradinaj in Pristina on November 27. The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court will on Thursday hand down judgement for Haradinaj and two comrades in arms who were re-tried because of witness intimidation.
The most senior Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders to be tried, Haradinaj as well as Balaj, his lieutenant and commander of the feared "Black Eagles" unit, were acquitted in April 2008 on 37 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Brahimaj was convicted of torture and sentenced to six years in jail.
Judges however ordered the court's first-ever partial retrial for all three after UN prosecutors appealed the acquittal and Brahimaj's sentence.
Appeals judges said the ICTY's trial chamber "seriously erred in failing to take adequate measures to secure the testimony of certain witnesses" during the original 10-month trial.
Haradinaj -- who quit his job as prime minister after 100 days in office to hand himself over to the tribunal -- and Balaj returned to court for the verdict while Brahimaj remains in detention.
During the re-trial prosecutors accused the three men of murdering and torturing Serbs and suspected collaborators against the separatist KLA.
Kosovo's former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj (C), shakes hands with members of the Kosovo Protection Corps on his return to Pristina, April, 2008, after the UN war crimes court acquitted him of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court will on Thursday hand down judgement for Haradinaj and two comrades who were re-tried because of witness intimidation.
Prosecutors demanded at least 20 years prison for all three men.
Haradinaj, who established the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party after the conflict, has been on provisional release since May 10 and living at home in Pristina.
If acquitted, he is likely to continue his political career in Kosovo and is expected to run again for prime minister.
His face adorns huge billboards all over Kosovo that read "the leader who keeps his words" and "forward with a clean slate."
However, he is still considered a war criminal by Belgrade and an arrest warrant has been issued against him by Serbia's war crimes prosecutor for his alleged crimes.
Oliver Antic, legal advisor to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, warned that should Haradinaj be acquitted "it will surely jeopardise negotiations."
"Haradinaj's acquittal will distance us from reconciliation," he added.
The conflict in Kosovo ended when Nato forces intervened to stop a crackdown on ethnic Albanians by the troops loyal to Milosevic.
In one of the most brutal episodes of the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s, more than 10,000 people died in the fighting.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade fiercely opposes its international recognition.