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French court rejects extradition of Kosovo ex-PM

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Ramush Haradinaj in 2012 Reuters/Hazir Reka/File Photo

A French court has ruled against the extradition of former Kosovo guerrilla leader and prime minister Ramush Haradinaj to Serbia, leaving free to return home.


Who is Ramush Haradinaj?

Born on 3 July 1968, Haradinaj fled to Switzerland using a false name in 1989, later joining the National Movement of Kosovo, the precursor of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), as eastern Europe was plunged into turmoil due to the Soviet Union's disintegration.
He returned to Kosovo in 1998, was the Kosovo war erupted, becoming a leading UCK commander.
With Nato's entry into Kosovo, eestablishing independence from Serbia that Belgrade has never recognised, the UCK became the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and Haradinaj became deputy commander.
He quit the KPC in 2000 to found the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK).
Following elections in 2004 he formed a coalition government with Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo, becoming prime minister.
In 2005 he was indicted for war crimes at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and was acquitted in 2008.
Because of allegations of witness intimidtion, a second trial was held in 2011 and Haradinaj was acquitted again.
He was arrested in France in January 2017 on the bases of an international arrest warrant issued by Serbia.

The court in the eastern French city of Colmar threw out Serbia's demand for the extraditon of Haradinaj, who was Kosovo's prime minister in 2004-2005 and leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) during the war that won independence from Serbia in 1998-99.

Public prosecutors had recommended accepting the request earlier this month.

The ruling leaves Haradinaj free to return home.

He had been kept in France on parole since being arrested at Bâle-Mulhouse-Fribourg airport in January on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Serbia in 2004.

The International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia cleared Haradinaj of war crimes charges in 2008 and 2012.

But those were related to events in 1998, while Serbia's warrant alleged that he had ordered or committed murder, rape, torture and inhumane acts against Serbian, Albanian and Roma civilians in June 1999.