ISSN 2330-717X

Kosovo And Serbia Keep Arrested Men Waiting

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By Gordana Andric and Fatmir Aliu

While four Kosovo Serbs are waiting to be taken before a court in Gnjilane in Kosovo, two Kosovo Albanians are waiting to be brought before the court in Vranje in Serbia.

In both cases, courts are to decide whether the arrested people will be kept in custody.

It is still not clear whether one of the two arrested Kosovo Albanians, Hasan Abazi, will be taken in front of the court, as prosecutors have yet to decide whether to keep or drop charges filed against him in 2005 for espionage.

Abazi and another Kosovar were arrested in retaliation for the arrest of four Serbs on Tuesday evening.

The four Serbs were arrested in Kosovo for carrying material to be used for Serbian local elections on May 6 – elections that Kosovo has vowed to prevent.

During the police raids of their homes, Kosovo police also arrested Jovica Balosevic, who was in front of the house of one of the other arrested men when the raid started. Balosevic was released on Thursday.

Serbian police on Wednesday then arrested two Kosovo Albanians. Abazi, president of the Metalworkers Union, was arrested for alleged espionage, while Adem Urseli was arrested for drug smuggling.

Both sets of arrests have drawn criticism from non-governmental organisations who call the arrests politically motivated and say they are based on the men’s ethnic background.

The Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo has condemned the arrest of its member, Abazi. “We hope his release will happen as soon as possible,” a press release from the union said.

Serbian deputies in Kosovo’s parliament have said they will leave parliament if the arrested Serbs are not released.

Meanwhile Serbia’s Interior Minister, Ivica Dacic, on Thursday said that the arrests of the two Albanians were not political, as both men had criminal records in Serbia.

He said that Serbs in Kosovo, on the other hand, were being arrested for working for Serbian institutions.

In this regard, all people working for Kosovo institutions were violating the Serbian constitution and could all be arrested when they enter Serbia, he said.

“Anyone jeopardising Serbia’s constitutional order will be arrested,” Dacic vowed. “We’ll treat them as they treat us. I’m not that religious to turn other cheek – the one who hits will get a reponse,” Dacic added.

On the other hand, Kosovo says its police have a duty to arrest Serbs who attempt to organise Serbian elections to Kosovo, as these breach the laws of the country.

“The government has declared Serbian elections illegal, so their organisers or those who try to organize them will be treated for illegal activity, according to the law,” Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci said on Wednesday.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said his government would crack down on Serbian plans to hold ballots inside Kosovo, adding that he will use all “legal and constitutional means to stop this aggression by Serbia against Kosovo”.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised by 22 of the 27 EU countries, the US and others.

But Serbia maintains that Kosovo remains part of Serbia, which is why it says it has a right and duty to hold elections there.

Abandoning Serbina-run “parallel institutions” in Kosovo is a condition that Brussels has set before Serbia, if the country wishes to get a start date for accession talks with the EU.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin 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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