Kosovo police arrest nine MPs after tear gas attack in parliament

By bne IntelliNews February 22, 2016

Kosovo police arrested nine opposition lawmakers after the latest in a series of tear gas attacks disrupted a session of the assembly on February 19, BIRN reported. The arrested are from the three opposition parties – Vetevendosje, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma) that are demanding the resignation of the government and scheduling early elections.

The opposition parties are against EU-brokered deals struck by Pristina with Serbia, giving more rights to Serbs in Kosovo, and a border demarcation deal with Montenegro. There is especially strong opposition to an agreement on the formation of an association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.

On February 19 at least five tear gas canisters were released and the parliament’s presidency suspended 18 (out of 31) opposition lawmakers. The police have interviewed the nine arrested MPs about offences related to "using firearms or dangerous tools", "causing general danger" and "obstructing public officials in exercising their duties." Another opposition lawmaker, admitted to hospital after hitting her head, faces criminal charges, BIRN reported.

After the arrests, AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj said he is submitting his resignation as a member of the parliament.

Despite the disruptions, the parliament held its February 19 session, the first one for this year. The next session is scheduled for February 24.

As in previous incidents, the actions of the opposition were condemned by foreign diplomats, with US ambassador Greg Delawie now saying he was disgusted.

Thousands of Kosovans participated in a peaceful rally in Pristina on February 17, demanding the government’s resignation and early elections. Vetevendosje leader Visar Ymeri was quoted by the Independent Balkan News Agency as saying that the next protest will be on February 27. The first protest in 2016 was held on January 9, when protestors set fire to a government building.

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