news 06 Jan 17

Kosovo Ex-PM Haradinaj Criticises France for Arrest

Former Kosovo premier Ramush Haradinaj said it was “sad” that France acted on a Serbian warrant to arrest him over war crimes charges, while top officials in Pristina demanded his release.

Die Morina
Ramush Haradinaj with French police. Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/BETA.

Ramush Haradinaj posted a message on Facebook on Friday implictly criticising France for arresting him on a Serbian warrant for war crimes that were allegedly committed while he was fighting against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces as a guerrilla commander in the late 1990s.

“It is sad how some countries still respect the decisions of the former Milosevic regime,” said the former prime minister, who now leads the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party.

He added that “Serbia’s friends inside and outside Kosovo” could not stop it becoming a state.

Haradinaj was detained on Wednesday by police at Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport in eastern France after arriving on a flight from Pristina.

A French court decided to keep him in custody “until Serbia makes a formal extradition request”, Reuters reported on Thursday evening.

Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa urged France on Friday to release Haradinaj, arguing that war crimes warrants issued by Serbia for former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas are “fully political and have no legal or juridical basis”.

Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj told a press conference meanwhile that the arrest was a “blow to Kosovo”.

“I have sent a request to the French court, clarifying that Serbia has no jurisdiction over Kosovo,” Hoxhaj said.

The spokesperson for Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo told BIRN that lawyers for the party leader were working on a request which will be sent to the French authorities, demanding release his on bail.

The party also organised a protest march to the French embassy in Pristina on Frday, which was supported by Kosovo Liberation Army veterans and two other opposition parties, Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) and the Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA.

Time Kadrija, an MP with Haradinaj’s party, told BIRN that it had already collected enough lawmakers’ signatures to trigger an extraordinary parliamentary session about the arrest.

“We will soon try to call an urgent parliamentary session. We have the necessary signatures and maybe through a resolution we will demand that Serbia to withdraw these names [of wanted ex-guerrillas like Haradinaj] that have been sent to Interpol,” Kadrija said at the protest.

Rrahman Ramadani, a KLA veteran who joined the protest, said he took to the streets to rally against the “injustice” committed against Haradinaj.

“This is not good at all, neither for the KLA nor for all Albanian people. Ramush Haradinaj and all other former KLA commanders must be released as soon as possible,” Ramadani told BIRN.

Since Haradinaj was arrested, a campaign for his release has begun on social media involving Albanians inside and outside  Kosovo.

A hip-hop artist from Albania known as Stresi posted a video on Instagram entitled “Free Rambo” - a reference to a nickname that some people use for Haradinaj - in which he fired a shotgun in the air.

After the video was made public, the Albanian authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of Sresi, whose real name is Arkimed Lushaj.

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