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News 30 Mar 12

Hasan Abazi Faces Month in Custody

A court in Vranje has ordered a 30-day period of detention for Hasan Abazi, the president of Kosovo's Metalworkers Union.

Fatmir Aliu BIRN Pristina / Vranje

A spokesperson for the High Court in Vranje said that the court ordered on Friday afternoon that the defendant be placed in detention for allegedly giving out sensitive information to NATO in 1999.

Abazi, 65, who was on his way to a European trade union conference in Croatia, was detained on the basis of an arrest warrant issued in 2005 under clause 315 of the Serbian Penal Code which deals with "crimes against the constitution and security of the Republic of Serbia".

His lawyer, Mladen Vasic, told Balkan Insight earlier in the day that his client had been in solitary confinement.

Serbia’s Interior Minister, Ivica Dacic, said on Wednesday, that the arrest was made in retaliation for the arrest of four Serbs on Tuesday evening.

Kosovo police arrested the four Serbs for allegedly carrying material for use in the Serbian local elections on May 6 - elections that Pristina has vowed to prevent.

Amnesty International has condemned the “retaliatory” arrest of the Kosovo Albanian trade unionist, and expressed its concern about the apparently politically motivated arrest by the Serb authorities.

In a press release issued on Friday morning, Amnesty International found the statements made by Serbia’s Minister of Interior Affairs, Ivica Dacic, disturbing, since he said that the Serbian police would retaliate for every Serb arrested in Kosovo.

“On the basis of these statements, Amnesty International stresses that people’s individual liberty cannot be put at risk as a bargaining chip in a political dispute between Serbia and Kosovo,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

The arrest comes after Serbia and Kosovo signed an outline agreement on freedom of movement, including Kosovo Albanians travelling into Serbia.

The agreement came into force in December 2011, and was one of the EU's preconditions for granting Serbia candidacy status.

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