Former Kosovo PM Haradinaj released in France

  • Published
Former prime minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj, center, leaves the court escorted by hooded police officers in Colmar, eastern FranceImage source, AP
Image caption,
Mr Haradinaj appeared in a court in Colmar, in eastern France

A former prime minister of Kosovo has been released in France pending a decision on whether to extradite him to Serbia, where he is wanted for alleged war crimes.

Ramush Haradinaj, 48, served as a rebel commander in the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict, which eventually led to Kosovo declaring independence.

He was arrested last week on a warrant from Serbia, apparently from 2004.

A judge in the French city of Colmar says he cannot leave the country.

Mr Haradinaj, now an opposition leader in Kosovo, was arrested by police at Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport, close to the Swiss and German borders in eastern France on 4 January.

The arrest increased tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 and has demanded Belgrade drop its efforts to prosecute people linked to the conflict.

"All of this is a circus. This is an abuse of the law and what you are doing is political," Mr Haradinaj told the court during the hearing.

Kosovo's government called his release "a first step" and hoped that he would "soon benefit from full and total freedom to return to Kosovo".

The former rebel leader was briefly detained by Slovenian police in 2015 but soon released.

He was a commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1990s conflict, and Serbia alleges he oversaw a campaign of torture and murder against ethnic Serbs.

Mr Haradinaj has consistently denied the allegations, and stepped down as prime minister after just 100 days to face the charges.

He twice faced war crimes charges at the UN, but was acquitted both times.