Thu, 29 Oct 2020

PRISTINA -- The deputy head of the Kosovo War Veterans Association, Nasim Haradinaj, has been transferred to a war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers said on September 26.

According to the arrest warrant, Haradinaj is suspected of intimidating witnesses, retaliation, and violating the secrecy of proceedings by releasing confidential information, including the names of witnesses.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers said Haradinaj's initial appearance before a judge in The Hague would be announced "in due course."

Haradinaj was arrested on September 25 in the Pristina suburb of Pejton. Moments before the arrest, Haradinaj said to the media that he does not recognize the Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor's Office (SPO), according to RFE/RL's Balkan Service.

The SPO said that the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and the Kosovo police provided "operational and logistical support" in Haradinaj's arrest.

Haradinaj's arrest followed that of Kosovo War Veterans Association head Hysni Gucati, who was transferred to The Hague on September 25.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers at The Hague is mandated to investigate and prosecute suspects in war crimes committed during Kosovo's 1998-99 uprising against rule from Belgrade.

Gucati was taken into custody on an arrest warrant and transfer order issued by a pretrial judge of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

Witnesses said Gucati was handcuffed by masked police officers at the association's Pristina office on September 25 and taken away in a EULEX police car.

Gucati was arrested on suspicion of criminal offenses 'against the administration of justice, namely for intimidation of witnesses, revenge, and violation of the secrecy of the procedure,' the SPO said.

The War Veterans Association represents former fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), the ethnic-Albanian separatist militia group that fought against Belgrade's forces in Kosovo's 1998-1999 war for independence.

Gucati and his aides have published dozens of court documents in recent weeks with the names of suspects, witnesses, and civilians allegedly murdered during the war, which eventually led to Kosovo's independence from Belgrade in 2008.

The War Veterans Association has claimed that they received the documents from an anonymous source.

Tome Gashi, a lawyer for the War Veterans Association, said Gucati was 'never interviewed on war-crimes charges and, based on the documents we saw, he may have been arrested on obstruction of justice charges.'

Christopher Bennett, spokesman of the prosecutor at The Hague-based tribunal, said earlier this week that releasing the documents would undermine 'the proper administration of justice' and would be a criminal act.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers also said on September 26 that Salih Mustafa, who was arrested by the SPO on September 24, will make an initial court appearance on September 28.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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