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France arrests former Kosovo PM sought by Serbia

Update: January, 05/2017 - 11:30
Ramush Haradinaj, pictured in 2012, is a former leader of paramilitaries who fought for Kosovo to gain independence. - AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

PARIS — A former prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, was arrested in France on Wednesday in response to an international arrest warrant for war crimes filed by Serbia.

Haradinaj - who has been twice tried and acquitted - is a former leader of paramilitaries who fought for Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Serbia, to gain independence.

He was arrested on his arrival from the Kosovo capital Pristina at Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport, located near the Swiss and German borders, sources close to the French investigation said.

The French judicial authorities will now examine the Serbian request, they said.

In Pristina, Kosovo’s justice minister Dhurata Hoxha, confirmed Haradinaj, 48, had been detained.

"We will take every step to ensure that Haradinaj is released as soon as possible," Hoxha said.

The 1998-99 Kosovo conflict was the last war of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

It culminated in a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia and, in 2008, in Kosovo’s independence, which is still not recognised by Belgrade.

Haradinaj, a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the war, became prime minister in 2004 but stepped down after just over three months to face 37 charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

He was acquitted in 2008, and again in a partial retrial in 2012.

But Serbia has maintained pressure for a new trial, and issued an international arrest warrant, which led to his brief detention while transiting Slovenia in June 2015.

Serbia says his unit, the so-called Black Eagles, tortured and killed dozens of Serbian civilians, whose bodies were found near Radonjic lake in the Decani region.

Haradinaj was a former comrade-in-arms of Kosovo’s current president, Hashim Thaci, but is now a political adversary, notable for opposing any attempt to normalise relations between Pristina and Belgrade. — AFP

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