By Labinot Leposhtica and Petrit Collaku
A Kosovo court on Tuesday placed three Kosovars in custody for 30 days on suspicion that they intended to join Islamic militants in Syria.
A Kosovo court has placed three Kosovo nationals, arrested in Turkey on November 14, in custody for 30 days on suspicion of terrorism.
The three flew to Istanbul from Skopje and allegedly intended to go to Syria and join the conflict there.
Tahir Isufi, 29, from Mitrovica, Ismajl Zeneli, 21, from Vushtrri and Nora Zuzaku, 22, from Gjilan were transported back to Skopje airport in Macedonia on November 15.
Kosovo police arrested them at the Hani i Elezit crossing border with Macedonia.
During police interviews in Kosovo, Isufi denied having planned to go to Syria and insisted the destination was only Istanbul.
“I had a return ticket and my aim was to visit Istanbul,” Isufi is quoted as saying in the judge’s decision on 30 days’ custody.
But Ismajl Zeneli and Nora Zuzaku admitted to Kosovo police that the destination was Syria, which they knew was against the law.
Zeneli told police that their destination was Syria and said he knew the action was reckless. “I regret my action and I will never repeat it,” Zeneli said.
Nora Zuzaku also told the prosecutor that the main destination was Syria. “My aim was to join my sister who is in Syria but I am happy to return to Kosovo,” Zuzaku said.
The judge at Pristina District Court stated that the defendants committed a criminal offence, if they aimed to join the conflict in Syria.
“The defendants had an intention to join the ISIS terrorist group and were prevented from continuing… by Turkish authorities,” the judge’s decision reads.
In March 2015, Kosovo adopted a law punishing participation in foreign conflicts with up to 15 years in jail – part of the government’s measures aimed at tackling the issue of Kosovars heading to the Middle East and fighting for Islamist extremists.
Police raided two locations connected to the suspects in Kosovo and said they found relevant evidence but they did not provide information on what kind of evidence they found.
Around 40 hardliners, including imams and alleged former fighters, are on trial in Kosovo following a crackdown that lasted from autumn 2014 to spring 2015.
More than 200 fighters from Kosovo have reportedly joined the ranks of ISIS and Al Nusra in Syria and Iraq.