Accessibility links

Kosovar Albanians React to Former PM's Not Guilty Plea

Thousands of Kosovar Albanians Monday morning were riveted to their televisions watching their former prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, appear before the Hague tribunal and plead not guilty to charges of war crimes.

It was not easy for many Kosovars to watch the man they regard as a patriot and war hero appear before the Hague tribunal. But Agim Gruda, a basketball coach, said he felt immense pride in the way that former prime minister Haradinaj conducted himself.

"But when I listened [to the broadcast] about this man, really, I felt very proud that he had decided to go and found a pacific [peaceful] way to go there," he said.

Other people here in the capital, however, are outraged that Mr. Haradinaj has been charged with crimes for a war that most Kosovars feel was a proper response to Serbian repression. They resent their former prime minister being in the same court as Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who has been charged with genocide.

Journalist Valon Syla applauds what he calls Mr. Haradinaj's statesmanlike action of going immediately and voluntarily to the Hague to defend himself. But Mr. Syla worries about the uncertain political situation created by Mr. Haradinaj's resignation and departure less than a week ago.

"The bad thing is that he left Kosovo in a critical situation where now we don't know who will be the prime minister. We don't know if this coalition [government] is going to continue to work. Kosovo, in 2005 is a very political year. We need to fulfill certain standards, and all this Hague affair is being more of an obstacle for us than for justice," he said.

Diplomats here likewise praise Mr. Haradinaj for the manner in which he responded to the war crimes indictment. They are especially pleased that he urged the people to remain calm and avoid any violent action that could upset Kosovar Albanians' determination to win United Nations support for full independence.