news 05 Jan 17

Kosovo Condemns Ex-PM Haradinaj’s Arrest in France

Kosovo and Albania condemned the arrest of former Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj in France over Serbian war crimes allegations, as French officials started considering Belgrade’s extradition request for the ex-guerrilla commander.

Die Morina
Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party. Photo: BIRN.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said on Thursday that it was unacceptable that Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander and prime minister who now leads the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, was arrested in France just because Serbia issued a warrant citing war crimes charges.

Thaci said that the struggle against Serbian forces during the late 1990s war led by the Kosovo Liberation Army, in which he and Haradinaj were both senior figures, was just.

“We [former] members of the Kosovo Liberation Army are proud that we fought against the discriminatory and criminal laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime; meanwhile, we were proved right by the free and democratic world when the [NATO] bombing campaign of Serbian targets started [to end the Kosovo war in 1999],” Thaci wrote on Facebook.

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

He was held on the basis of a Serbian arrest warrant that alleges that he committed war crimes while he was a KLA guerrilla commander.

The politician has been cleared of war crimes charges twice already by the UN tribunal in The Hague.

His lawyer Arianit Koci told BIRN on Thursday that he expected that Haradinaj would be released soon.

“Serbia is trying to delay the process by sending additional arguments about Haradinaj but this will not happen as, after all the charges against Haradinaj, his innocence has been proven twice in The Hague,” Koci said.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters on Thursday however that Belgrade will continue to demand the extradition of Haradinaj.

“It would be illogical that France, as a state with the rule of law, does not comply with the law,” Vucic said.

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution said on Thursday that more evidence has been collected that complements the charges against Haradinaj.

Serbian state broadcaster RTS reported that the authorities in Belgrade suspect Haradinaj of being responsible for the massacre of Serbs in the Glodjane area in 1998, among other alleged crimes.

A French judiciary source told Reuters news agency that on Thursday, investigators would begin examining whether there were reasons not to fulfil the extradition request, such as if it was issued for political reasons.

Meanwhile the Kosovo prime minister’s office said that the Pristina government and all relevant departments would strive to clarify the circumstances of Haradinaj’s detention as a result of “Serbia’s illegal, unfair and tendentious charges”.

Visar Ymeri, the leader of the opposition Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party called for an end to cooperation with Serbia until all international warrants for former KLA fighters were withdrawn.

“It is obvious that cuddling up to Serbia is making it worse. The dialogue, the trade, the concessions and the money that we are giving to them, are making our enemy Serbia stronger... This should be stopped immediately,” Ymeri said.

Officials in Albania also condemned Haradianaj’s detention.

“I urge the French authorities, as one of the countries with a substantial contribution to Kosovo as a state, to clarify the situation by immediately releasing Ramush Haradinaj,” Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati wrote on Facebook.

Albania’s opposition Democratic Party said meanwhile said Haradinaj’s arrest caused concern because it related to “one of the most proud pages of our history, the freedom and independence of Kosovo”.

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