Haradinaj freed: French court rejects Serbia’s extradition request

A French appeals court has rejected Belgrade’s request to extradite former Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to Serbia for prosecution on suspicion of war crimes, ordering his release instead.

Upon his release following the ruling on April 27, Haradinaj said the procedure is now closed and Serbia’s extradition request has been turned down.

“I am as of this moment a free man and I hope I will be able to go back to Kosovo today,” Haradinaj told reporters outside the court in the northeastern French city of Colmar. Haradinaj is wanted in Serbia on suspicion of committing war crimes, including kidnappings and torture, when he was a guerrilla commander during Kosovo’s 1998-99 independence war.

Predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It is recognized by 114 nations. Unlike France and most other European countries, Serbia does not recognize the independence of its former province.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s government scheduled an urgent session at 12 p.m. local time to discuss future steps after Haradinaj’s release. “We have to consider all implications of this move,” a government official who asked not to be named told Reuters. He declined to elaborate.

Haradinaj was detained by French authorities on January 4, and the Colmar court the next day ordered him to remain in custody. His arrest had triggered outrage in Kosovo, where the government called the Serbian charges “illegal, unfair, and tendentious.” After the previous hearing last month, Haradinaj had described himself as a “political hostage.”

The former KLA commander has been tried twice and acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He was elected prime minister of Kosovo in 2004 but resigned after 100 days in order to surrender himself for trial in The Hague. In June 2015, he was arrested in Slovenia on a Serbian warrant but was released two days later under diplomatic pressure.

The standoff over Haradinaj’s detention in France has prompted calls from some officials and politicians in Kosovo to halt EU-mediated normalization talks with Serbia.

Normalized bilateral relations are considered a precondition for Serbia and Kosovo to gain EU membership, which both countries are seeking.

But the EU-brokered deal between Belgrade and Pristina to improve and regulate ties between the two states has only been moderately successful.

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(Radio Free Europe, 27.04.2017)



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