Dacic: Kosovo Trade Unionist Arrest Is Retaliation

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By Lawrence Marzouk and Gordana Andric

A veteran trade unionist from Kosovo was arrested today by Serbian border police for “espionage” in retaliation for earlier arrests of Serbs by Kosovo Police, Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic has said.

Hasan Abazi, President of the Metalworkers Union, who is 65, was detained by Serbian border police on an arrest warrant issued in 2005 under clause 305 of the Serbian Penal Code which deals with “crimes against constitution and security of Republic of Serbia”.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told Tanjug that the arrest was in retaliation for yesterday’s arrest of four Serbs on Tuesday evening. Kosovo police arrested the four Serbs for allegedly carrying material to be used for Serbian local elections on May 6 – elections that Pristina has vowed to prevent.

Dacic said that police had already arrested two Kosovo Albanians on Wednesday morning. Hasan Abazi was arrested over alleged espionage, while Adem Urseli was arrested for drug smuggling.

Dacic said that retaliation is not in the interest of Serbia but that he had no choice. “Serbian police did not wish to take this approach, but the situation obviously could no longer go on without retaliation,” he said.

“If someone wants to compete in arrests, we have the answer,“ said Dacic.

The warrant for Abazi’s arrest was issued by the Serbian-run, parallel court of Gjilan/Gnjilane, which is now based in Vranje.

Article 305 reads: “Whoever attempts to unconstitutionally bring Serbia or SaM[Serbia and Montenegro] into a position of subjugation or dependence in respect of another state, shall be punished by imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

Abazi was a political activist in the 90s in Kosovo and twice served in Ibrahim Rugova’s parallel parliament.

Sladjan Velinovic, Chief of Police in Vranje, told Balkan Insight that Abazi is detained in Vranje prison and will appear before an investigative judge on Thursday morning.

Velinovic refused to comment on the reasons for his arrest until Abazi had been questioned by the judge.

Abazi had been travelling with the trade union leader for Kosovo Energy Cooperation, KEK, Izet Mustafa, on his way to a European trade union conference in Croatia.

Mustafa said that he was arrested by an ethnic-Albanian border guard and was being held at the border crossing near Gnjilane/Gjilan. He has now been transferred to Vranje.

Haki Abazi, Hasan’s son, who is Rockefeller Brothers Fund program director for the Western Balkans, said the family was concerned for Hasan’s safety.

Vladimir Jovicic, deputy head of Serbian negotiating team in Belgrade-Pristina talks, told Balkan Insight he hadn’t heard about the arrests, but pointed out that Kosovo police had arrested four Serbs on Tuesday evening.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (forner the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes.

BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention.

Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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