News 19 Jun 15

Slovenia Releases Kosovo Ex-Premier Haradinaj

Wartime guerrilla commander turned political leader Ramush Haradinaj, who was detained in Slovenia on a Serbian war crimes arrest warrant, is expected to return to Kosovo after being freed.

Una Hajdari
Haradinaj entering court in Slovenia. Photo: Beta.

Former prime minister Haradinaj was released by a Slovenian court on Friday after being held on a Serbian warrant which accused him of committing war crimes while he was a Kosovo Liberation Army commander during the 1998-99 conflict with Belgrade’s forces.

“The Embassy of Kosovo in Ljubljana ... sent us a diplomatic note confirming that the Kosovo citizen was crossing Slovenia while returning from a special diplomatic mission abroad which is why Slovenia must enable him free passage,” the court in Kranj said in a statement to Reuters news agency.

The politician is now expected to return to Pristina, said the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, the party he now leads.

Haradinaj was acquitted in 2012 by the Hague Tribunal of committing war crimes. But the Serbian war crimes prosecution is currently investigating him in three cases, accusing him of the killing of at least 60 people.

The arrest of Haradinaj, who served briefly as prime minister in 2004-2005, has infuriated many people in Kosovo who consider him a hero for his role in fighting Serbian forces.

Protesters gathered for a third day in front of the Slovenian embassy on Friday morning holding placards with slogans such as “Shame on Slovenia”. Some of Haradinaj’s staunchest supporters had spent the night outside the embassy.

Haradinaj on Friday thanked people in Kosovo for their support.

“I want to thank everyone who empathised with this difficult situation,” he wrote on Facebook.

The Slovenian justice ministry decided on Thursday that he would not be extradited to Serbia, no matter what the court decided to do about Belgrade’s arrest warrant.

“It is very important that the minister of justice has decided not to allow Haradinaj’s extradition, even if the court takes such a decision. This is because all the charges in the arrest warrant have been addressed by the Hague Tribunal,” said Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec.

Haradinaj has repeatedly insisted that the 2004 warrant was not valid.

The Kosovo parliament passed a resolution on Thursday calling for the immediate release of Haradinaj and his return to Kosovo.

Parliament also decided to send a protest note to Ljubljana, a move that is seen as controversial because Kosovo enjoys good relations with Slovenia.

Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci urged parliamentarians to reconsider, saying that “the problem is in Belgrade, not in Ljubljana”.

Meanwhile supporters of Pristina’s basketball club, Plisat, threw firecrackers at the premises of Slovenian companies in Pristina on Thursday, saying they wanted to burn down “everything that is Slovenian”.

Albert Kastrati, the head of Plisat, said that “this will continue until Ramush is released”.

The attacks were criticised by President Atifete Jahjaga.

There were also strong reactions on social media, with people posting photos of burned Ljubljanska Banka bank cards and spilled Alpsko milk, calling for a boycott of all Slovenian products.

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