news 27 Apr 17

Thousands Welcome Freed Ex-PM Haradinaj in Kosovo

Celebrating crowds in central Pristina greeted former Kosovo Prime Minister and ex-guerrilla Ramush Haradinaj, after a French court refused to extradite him to Serbia to face war crimes charges.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
Ramush Haradinaj addresses supporters in Pristina on Thursday evening. Photo: Atdhe Mulla.

Former Kosovo PM and Kosovo Liberation Army ex-commander Ramush Haradinaj gave an emotional address to thousands of supporters who gathered in Pristina’s Zahir Pajaziti Square in Pristina on Thursday evening to greet him after he arrived direct from the airport following his release.

“I do not know how to describe the feeling of having all these people who did not let me feel alone during this time,” Haradinaj told the crowd.

He returned to Pristina after the appeals court in the French town of Colmar turned down a request from Serbia for him to be sent to Belgrade to face trial for alleged war crimes.

Haradinaj said he was disappointed that state institutions had not supported him as he would have liked.

“Unfortunately once again I felt stateless,” he said.

In his speech, Haradinaj accused Serbia of calling for renewed aggression against Kosovo by seeking to extradite him to face war crimes charges.

“I said it openly that the request to extradite me in Serbia is a call for war,” he said.

The politician and former Kosovo Liberation Army fighter, who lost two brothers during the conflict, recalled the day in March 1999 when his family was attacked by Serbian forces.

“But for those who attack us, we answer by defending,” he said.

Haradinaj has twice been acquitted by the Hague-based court for the former Yugoslavia of committing war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

However Serbian officials insist that they have evidence that he 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.

Haradinaj’s arrest at a French airport after he flew in from Kosovo in January 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.

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