The Court of Appeals in the French town of Colmar decided on April 27 not to extradite Kosovo’s former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to Serbia.
The decision was celebrated in Kosovo and Albania, but drew an angry response from the Serbian government. Haradinaj’s arrest on a Serbian warrant in January contributed to an increase in tensions in the region.
Haradinaj, now the leader of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and a lawmaker, was detained in Basel on January 4. He spent a week in prison before he was released and ordered to hand over his passport, and remained in France pending the outcome of the extradition case.
Belgrade wanted the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander tried for war crimes committed in Kosovo in 1999.
Haradinaj, who denies all the allegations, was previously cleared of war crimes charges in two trials by a UN war crimes tribunal in 2008 and 2012. After his arrest, his lawyers argued that he had already been tried and acquitted by the Hague Tribunal for the same crimes.
After the French court’s April 27 decision, Haradinaj is free to leave France and says he will return to Kosovo. According to his wife Anita Haradina, he is expected to land in Pristina on the evening of April 27 and will address citizens on his arrival.
“This is a victory for Albanians and I’m a free man now,” Haradinaj said.
The ruling was also welcomed by Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci. “The decision of the court of Colmar is good news for the family Haradinaj, his associates and all Kosovo. Once again it is proved that the Serbian allegations against the Kosovo Liberation Army are injustice,” Thaci wrote on his Facebook page.
But while Haradinaj’s release was welcomed in Kosovo and Albania, the Serbian side reacted angrily and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has called an urgent government session for April 27.
“At the upcoming session, the government will decide on the next steps related to the latest Colmar court decision to not extradite Haradinaj to Serbia,” Serbia’s Minister of Interior Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic told journalists on April 27.
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