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News 30 Jul 17

Albanians Oppose Drone Flyer's Extradition to Serbia

Albanian diplomats, politicians and football fans are uniting in opposition to a Croatian court ruling, which backed Serbia's request to extradite the man who flew a drone bearing a flag of Greater Albania at a match in Belgrade. 

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Red and Black fans protesting on Saturday in Tirana. Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra

Croatian Supreme Court is yet to decide whether notorious drone flyer Ismail Morina will be sent to Serbia, after a court in Dubrovnik backed Belgrade's extradition request on Thursday.

On Saturday, Albanian football fans protested in front of the Prime Minister's office, urging the authorities to intervene in stopping the extradition.

Morina infuriated Serbian nationalists in October 2014 when he flew a drone carrying a flag depicting a map of Greater Albania during a football match in Belgrade.

Albanian nationalists admire him for the same reason. "Ismail Ballist Morina is a hero for Albanians, although since the day he flew the drone he has been persecuted by the courts," Albanian "Red and Black" fans wrote on Facebook, inviting people to join their protest.

They promised more protests until Morina - now detained - is free. Many took to Facebook to declare their frustration with the Dubrovnik court, publishing banners with Morina's portrait and the words "Set him free".

Croatian police in Dubrovnik detained him in June, acting on a Serbian arrest warrant, while he was heading to Italy where he has lived for years with his family.

Morina's Croatian lawyer, Darko Butigan, on Saturday told Albania's Top Channel TV that Serbia had charged him with inciting criminal acts between nations, a charge that can lead up to eight years in prison.

Butigan said the charges were baseless, and he had appealed the decision to Croatia's Supreme Court, but also has asked European institutions to intervene.

"The extradition cannot be carried out until the procedure that we have followed for his protection finishes ... We have done this because we believe that in Serbia, Morina is not going to get a fair trial, based on his Albanian nationality," he said.

Morina's lawyer is not the only one making attempts to stop his extradition to Serbia.

Albania's Justice Ministry on Friday asked its Croatian counterpart to suspend the request for extradition in Serbia, considering it at odds with European conventions on extradition and human rights.

On Sunday, the Albanian Football Federation announced that, together with Prime Minister Edi Rama, it was appealing to the Croatian authorities to stop the extradition.

Morina's brother has also called on Albanians authorities to help stop his brother's extradition.

Morina has has brushes with the law in Albania, too. Albanian police arrested him in October 2015, while he was driving, after finding a pistol on him and another one hidden in the car.

They also found 36 tickets with the names of people who were going to attend a football match against Serbia in Elbasan. On December 2015, he was released from detention.

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