News 27 Apr 17

France Refuses to Extradite Kosovo Ex-PM to Serbia

A French court has rejected Serbia’s extradition request for former Kosovo Prime Minister and ex-guerrilla Ramush Haradinaj, who is wanted in Belgrade on war crimes charges.

Die Morina, Filip Rudic
BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade
Haradinaj in court in March. Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/AP/Beta.

The appeals court in the French town of Colmar on Thursday turned down a request from Serbia for wartime Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla turned political party leader Ramush Haradinaj to be sent to Belgrade to face trial for alleged war crimes.

Haradinaj was immediately released and officials from his Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK party said that they expected him to be back in Kosovo on Thursday night.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci welcomed the court’s decision.

“Once again it has been proved that the defamations of the Serbian [security] services against the Kosovo Liberation Army are unreliable and are not respected by the democratic world,” Thaci wrote on Facebook.

But Serbian officials reacted angrily.

The head of Serbia’s parliamentary committee on Kosovo, Milovan Drecun, told BIRN that it was a political ruling.

“France has now definitely aligned itself with those who discriminate against victims and treat criminals differently depending on their nationality,” Drecun said.

Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the Hague-based court for the former Yugoslavia of committing war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

However Serbian officials insist that they have evidence that he was involved in other war crimes for which he has not yet been prosecuted.

They say he is suspected of the murders of civilians, including the killing of a two-week-old baby, torture, and the rape of a minor.

Haradinaj’s arrest at a French airport after he flew in from Kosovo in January heightened tensions between Belgrade and Pristina.

It also sparked protests by Albanians both inside and outside Kosovo, calling for his release and condemning the arrest as a political act.

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