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Kosovo Calls on France to Release Ex-premier Haradinaj

  • Associated Press

Former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj (R) is rushed by police officers inside the Colmar courthouse, eastern France, Jan.5, 2017.

Kosovo's government is calling on French authorities to release a former prime minister who has been detained facing possible extradition to Serbia to face war crimes charges.

A French court Thursday ruled that Ramush Haradinaj, detained a day earlier, should stay in custody until it decides whether to turn him over to Serbian officials.

Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa on Friday urged "the French government to take into consideration that such warrants are fully political and have no legal or juridical base."

France's Foreign Ministry has refused to comment on Kosovo's call for Haradinaj's release.

The French court says it is awaiting the formal extradition request from Serbia before it sets a date for a hearing.

Haradinaj, 48, a guerrilla fighter in Kosovo's 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia and now an opposition political leader, is accused by Serbia of committing kidnappings, torture and killings against Serb civilians when he was a senior rebel commander in western Kosovo.

Hundreds of former Kosovo guerrilla fighters and supporters from opposition parties staged a protest outside the French embassy to call for Haradinaj's release.

In Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday expressed hope France would extradite Haradinaj and wouldn't let politics override legal matters.

In a message Friday on Facebook, Haradinaj deplored that France would "still respect decisions of (Slobodan) Milosevic's former regime."

Haradinaj was cleared of war crimes charges in two lengthy trials by a U.N. war crimes tribunal. Two years ago Haradinaj was detained in Slovenia at Belgrade's request, but later released.

"I have a message for Serbia's friends within Kosovo and abroad: Kosovo's road to statehood cannot be stopped by anyone," he said.

Mustafa said the government is planning to take measures if "Serbia, misusing the international law and order mechanism, continues the application of such politically unacceptable and immoral acts to Kosovo's activists and fighters for freedom."

Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj said the Kosovo government denied a request from Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic to visit Kosovo Friday as a response to Haradinaj's arrest in France.

France and most European countries recognized Kosovo's independence after it seceded from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not.

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