Kosovar ex-premier, wanted by Serbia, faces French court

AP News
Posted: Jan 05, 2017 1:15 PM
Kosovar ex-premier, wanted by Serbia, faces French court

PARIS (AP) — A former prime minister of Kosovo is facing possible extradition to Serbia to face war crimes charges after being arrested at a French airport.

Ramush Haradinaj appeared Thursday in a court in Colmar in eastern France that ruled that he should stay in custody during extradition proceedings.

At an unspecified later date, the court will decide on whether to approve extradition.

Haradinaj, a former guerrilla fighter in Kosovo's 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia, was detained Wednesday at Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport, on the border with Switzerland and Germany, on a Serbian warrant.

Haradinaj was cleared of war crimes charges in two lengthy trials by a U.N. war crimes tribunal. But Serbia accuses him of committing war crimes including kidnappings, torture and killings against Serb civilians when he was a senior rebel commander in western Kosovo.

Kosovo's government called the charges "illegal, unfair and tendentious."

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, also a former guerrilla leader and Haradinaj's friend, called the detention "unacceptable." He said the accusations were "damaging peace and stability" in the Balkans and were an effort to derail Kosovo's push to join international organizations as an independent state.

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

"Our prosecutor's office has numerous pieces of evidence against Mr. Haradinaj," he said. "He is accused of so many (crimes) that they are impossible to list."

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