News 09 Feb 17

France Postpones Extradition Ruling on Kosovo’s Haradinaj

A French court decided to postpone its decision on whether to free former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj or to send him to Serbia to face trial on war crimes charges.

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

The appeals court in Colmar in France said on Thursday that it will deliver its ruling on the extradition of Ramush Haradinaj on March 2, according to the spokesperson for his Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party, Muharrem Nitaj, who was in court.

During the hearing, Haradinaj was asked if he accepts being extradited to Serbia, which wants to try him for alleged war crimes.

Haradinaj said no, insisting that the case was completely political.

“Serbia’s request for extradition is an abuse of the law,” he said, according to media reports.

The former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla commander turned politician has twice been acquitted by the Hague-based war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia of committing war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

However Serbian officials insist that they have evidence that Haradinaj 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.

They have also threatened to retaliate if Paris does not send him to Belgrade.

His arrest at a French airport after he flew in from Kosovo last month 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.

The French court released Haradinaj on bail on January 12, but ordered him to remain in the country under judicial supervision while the authorities consider whether to send him to Serbia to face trial.

Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Rasim Ljajic said on Wednesday evening that if the French court decides to send Haradinaj to Belgrade, it would be a “surprise” because courts in other countries have previously decided to release Kosovo ex-guerrillas wanted by Serbia.

“If the decision is based on the legal arguments rather than political ones, it would probably be different,” Ljajic told Radio-Television Vojvodina.

Ljajic added that if the French court decides to release Haradinaj, Serbia should continue to insist on his arrest.

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