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News 30 Mar 12

Kosovo Serbs Jailed for Spreading Hatred

Four Kosovo Serbs arrested for breaching Kosovo’s Constitutional Order and suspected of organising Serbia’s election in Kosovo, are now being charged with inciting hatred and intolerance among ethnic groups.

Fatmir Aliu, Gordana Andric BIRN Pristina, Belgrade

A Kosovo prosecutor amended charges against four Serbs arrested for allegedly carrying material to be used in the Serbian local elections.

Instead of charging them for breaching Kosovo’s Constitutional Order, charged them with inciting hatred and intolerance among ethnic groups.

Kamenica’s Municipal Court President, Zijadin Spahiu, told Balkan Insight on Friday that the defendants were brought before his court on Thursday afternoon and charged with inciting hatred under Clause 115, Article 1 of the Penal Code of Kosovo which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

The Court ordered the four suspects should be put under house arrest for 30 days.

“They have no right to contact each other or anyone else, other than members of their families,” Spahiu said.

Serbian minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, said the arrests were “ethnically motivated” with the aim to frighten Serbs who are engaged with Serbian institutions on Kosovo.

“These counts are ridiculous, this is abuse of law and selective enforcement of the law by so-called Kosovo authorities.

„The fact they were working for Serbian insitutions and they were carrying election lists is no basis for acusations of spreading hate and intolerance. This is indeed absurd,“ Bogdanovic told Balkan Insight.

A Balkan Insight source explained that the prosecutor has the right to amend charges filed by the police, then change them again when filing the indictment, after the period of house arrest expires.

Given that another article of the Kosovo's Penal Code Clause 115 includes the breach of Constitutional Order the prosecution can add more charges later.

According to the source, Kosovo prosecution is planning to expand the case by adding the charges for breach of Constitutional Order at a later stage.  

The Kosovo Serbs were arrested on Tuesday night at the Kosovo-Serbia border crossing of Dheu I Bardhë/Bela Zemlje.

They included the Mayor of Vitina, Srecko Spasic, two of his employees, and a police officer from the Ferizaj/Urosevac police. The four were on their way to Gnjilane/Gjilan.

After their arrest, the police found a list of eligible Serb voters in the municipalities of Gjilan and Vitina in their possession, and another list of those working for the Serb parallel institutions in Kosovo.

The Serbian police retaliated by arresting two Kosovo Albanians on Wednesday. Hasan Abazi, the President of the Metalworkers Union, was arrested for alleged espionage, while Adem Urseli was arrested for drug smuggling.

Both sets of arrests have drawn criticism from non-governmental organisations, who describe them as politically motivated and based on the men's ethnic background.

Earlier this month, Serbia announced that it was extending its May 6 local elections to Kosovo, which it still considers part of its territory, even though the country declared itself independent in 2008.

This move was condemned by the Kosovo government and by the international community as a violation of Kosovo's territorial integrity and sovereignty, which Belgrade does not recognise.

The Kosovo Police announced on Thursday that is has drawn up operational plans for implementing the government’s call to prevent the Serb ballots within the territory of Kosovo.

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