News 11 Jan 17

Albanians Abroad Unite for Kosovo Ex-PM Haradinaj

Albanians worldwide have become involved in a protest campaign over the detention in France of former Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj - causing an angry reaction from Serbia, which requested his arrest.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Ramush Haradinaj with French police. Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/BETA.

Protests have been held and petitions launched by members of the Albanian diaspora in several cities around the world, calling for the immediate release of guerrilla turned politician Ramush Haradanaj, who was arrested in France last week on a Serbian war crimes warrant.

The protesters insist that his arrest was not legal because the former Kosovo prime minister, who now heads the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party, was acquitted twice by the Hague war crimes tribunal.

Protests have been staged in Brussels, Washington and New York - as well as in Kosovo’s capital Pristina - while another series of actions will be held on January 14 in Tirana, Tetovo and Pristina.

Belgrade alleges that the former Kosovo Liberation Army commander committed war crimes during the late 1990s conflict with Serbian forces.

The protests by diaspora Albanians in front of Serbian embassies and diplomatic missions in some countries triggered an angry reaction from Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who alleged that some protesters were planning to attack a Serbian diplomatic mission.

“We have information about a seizure of one of our diplomatic missions in the United States or Europe, which is being plotted by the Albanian diaspora in order to make Serbia drop its demand to try Haradinaj,” Dacic said on Monday.

He also said that Serbia would not give up its efforts to have Haradinaj extradited.

His statement came hours after protests in support of Haradinaj outside French missions in Washington and Dallas, and in front of Serbia’s permanent mission to the UN in New York.

Albanian politicians have also been lobbying for Haradinaj’s release.

After Prime Minister Edi Rama and Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati condemned the arrest, the vice-chairman of parliament, Valentina Leskaj, appealed on Monday to the head of the Council of Europe in her capacity as chairman of the Albanian parliamentary delegation to the CoE.

"The detention of Ramush Haradinaj in a Council of Europe member country based on an old Serbian warrant is unexpected and unacceptable. It is a violation of basic human rights," Leskaj wrote to CoE chief Pedro Agramunt.

In Kosovo itself, MPs on Tuesday debated a parliamentary resolution on the case.

The former OSCE chief in Kosovo, William Walker, was present during the parliamentary session and told BIRN that he believed the Serbian warrant was politically-motivated.

“The French should know that this is a political act coming from Belgrade. I’m upset about Serbia continuing these efforts, as I am with France as well,” said Walker.

Media in Serbia reported on Tuesday that the justice ministry in Belgrade has now filed an official request to its Paris counterpart for the extradition of Haradinaj.

A French court is to decide on Thursday whether to release the Kosovo politician from detention pending a decision on the extradition request.

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