news 12 Jan 17

France Frees Kosovo Ex-PM Haradinaj from Custody

Kosovo Liberation Army commander turned politician Ramush Haradinaj, arrested in France over Serbian war crimes charges, has been released from custody while Belgrade’s extradition request is being considered.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
Ramush Haradinaj. Photo: Kallxo.com/BIRN.

The appeals court in the French town of Colmar on Thursday released Haradinaj from jail but said he must stay in France under judicial supervision while the authorities consider whether to send him to Serbia to face war crimes charges.

“These accusations from Serbia are purely political. What you are doing here is an abuse of rights,” Haradinaj told the court in French, AFP news agency reported.

He is obliged to surrender his passport, report twice a week to the French police and attend court hearings about whether to extradite him to Serbia.

AFP reported that at the hearing, the presiding judge said that according to information provided to Interpol, Serbia accuses Ramush Haradinaj of having ordered the “unlawful detention of civilians” in Kosovo in 1999.

Some of the detained civilians were tortured, raped, inhumanely treated or killed, according to the Serbian authorities.

The opposition party that Haradinaj now leads, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, argued that the politician should be allowed to go back to Pristina.

“We believe that the decision that he be released from detention, but not be allowed to return home, is not full justice,” the party said in a statement.

“We call on the judicial authorities in France to speed up procedures and to end any measures against Ramush Haradinaj, as he has been cleared of all allegations of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia,” the statement added.

Haradinaj was acquitted of war crimes twice by the Hague-based war crimes court.

But Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that the French court should not have freed Haradinaj from custody.

“Haradinaj’s release, and even temporary freedom, is not good news. Especially for the families of his victims,” Vulin told Serbian news agency Tanjug.

The prime minister of Albania, Edi Rama, welcomed the French court’s decision but said Interpol arrest warrants issued for former Kosovo Liberation fighters on Serbia’s request should be cancelled.

“The absurd episode closes but the battle for the deletion of the list of old warrants continues,” Rama wrote on Facebook.

Another Kosovo politician, Behgjet Pacolli, the leader of Alliance New Kosovo, echoed Rama’s comments.

“He [Haradinaj] should be removed from the Interpol list and should return to his place as soon as possible,” Pacolli wrote on Facebook.

Haradinaj’s arrest at a French airport last week has sparked protests by Albanians both inside and outside Kosovo, calling for his release and condemning the arrest as a political act.

Haradinaj also said on Friday that it was “sad how some countries still respect the decisions of the former Milosevic regime”.

However the French foreign ministry issued a statement on Monday insisting that Paris “maintains close and friendly relations” with Kosovo despite the arrest, which it insisted was not political.

“The action being taken against Ramush Haradinaj relates to the judicial proceedings initiated by Interpol’s request. It does not have any political implications and does not change France’s consistent policy,” the ministry statement said.

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