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A court in Nis has denied an appeal to release Hasan Abazi, the president of Kosovo's Metalworkers Union, who was arrested on his way to a trade union conference in Croatia.
The court in Nis delivered its decision to reject Hasan Abazi's appeal late on Tuesday. “We submitted the appeal three days after the court ordered him into detention but the appeal was reviewed for two weeks and has been rejected, so he remains in detention,” Haki Abazi, Hasan's son, said.
The High Court in Vranje ordered a 30-day period of detention for Abazi on March 30 for allegedly giving out sensitive information to NATO in 1999. He denied the charges.
“Since he has been kept in detention no judicial process has taken place. He was questioned only once by an investigating judge a few days after the arrest and no hearings are scheduled.
“According to the court order, the detention period expires on April 26. But under Serbian law a person can be kept in pre-trial custody for six months,” Haki Abazi added.
Abazi senior, 65, was on his way to a European trade union conference in Croatia when he was detained on the basis of an arrest warrant issued in 1999 by a court in what was then Serb-ruled Kosovo.
The warrant was confirmed in July 2000, a few months after the regime of Slobodan Milosevic collapsed in Serbia.
The new Serbian government issued an amnesty in 2001 annulling the charges that the former Milosevic regime had filed against Kosovo Albanians for hostile activities in 1999 to 2001.
But Natasa Kandic, head of the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade, said some charges and warrants, such as the one against Abazi, were never deleted.
“Some charges were not annulled because the proceedings against those people were conducted in absentia,” she noted.
She believes the arrest of Abazi was politically motivated and says other Kosovo Albanians could face arrest if they cross the border.
“It is clear that the arrest was a political arrest and it is an embarrassment that Serbia’s ministry of justice hasn’t reacted," she said.
“These charges and warrants can be activated whenever some minister decides he has a reason to activate them,” she added.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have risen sharply in recent weeks over a range of issues including Serbia's plans to extend elections to its former province and a series of tit-for-tat arrests on both sides of the border.
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