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News 25 Nov 15

Kosovo Cracks Down on Protesters Ahead of Rally

While the opposition prepares a 'peaceful march' on Albania’s Independence Day in Pristina, the police have arrested a number of those involved in recent violent demonstrations.

Ervin Qafmolla
 Photo: BIRN/Atdhe Mulla

As Kosovo opposition parties look ahead to a major rally on Friday against the government's agreements with Serbia and Montenegro, the police are conducting a country-wide campaign of arrests in relation to the violent protests of recent weeks.

Around 20 people have been arrested so far, according to the police, while arrest warrants have been issued for a dozen more. Most of those arrested have been placed in 30 days' detention awaiting trial.

 Photo: BIRN/Atdhe Mulla

November 18 saw some of the most violent clashes in months between opposition activists and riot police, involving stones, teargas, Molotov cocktails and acts of vandalism on public property, following the detention of the opposition MP Donika Kadaj-Bujupi.

Kadaj-Bujupi, from the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, was arrested on Wednesday for setting off tear gas in parliament.

The opposition blames widespread police brutality that same night for the escalation of events.

“I was trying to calm them down but one of them [the police] hit me on the head... Some of them were really rude,” Vetevendosje [Self-determination] MP Fisnik Ismali told BIRN in the aftermath of Wednesday protests.

 Photo: BIRN/Atdhe Mulla

The police told BIRN that they did not use unjustified violence against protesters, but that “some violent protesters exerted excessive violence against the police”.

BIRN shot several photos that appear to show riot police charging with batons at civilians who were trying to escape.

It is still unclear whether persons unrelated to the protests were subjected to attacks and arrests, however.

Vetevendosje on Monday denounced the arrests as a provocation that aimed to “sabotage the grand and peaceful rally on November 28”.

Three opposition parties, Vetevendosje, the AAK, and the Initiative for Kosovo, Nisma, have vowed to organise a march on November 28 in Pristina to oppose the agreement reached in Brussels on the formation of an Association of Serbian Municipalities and on border demarcation with Montenegro.

 Photo: BIRN/Atdhe Mulla

The association is especially controversial as some maintain that the autonomous body will have the same semi-independent status as the Bosnian Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia, Republikas Srpska.

Vetevendosje MP Albin Kurti, who is currently hiding from arrest from the police, has told the local media that he will participate in the march despite the arrest warrant on him.

Warrants have also been issued for two Vetevendosje MPs, Albulena Haxhiu and Faton Topalli. Both MPs have since avoided public appearances.

The three opposition parties have blocked the work of parliament since early October, demanding that the Kosovo government scrap its recent agreement with Serbia.

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