KOSOVO: BLAST HITS OSCE VEHICLES, AS FORMER PREMIER LEAVES FOR HAGUE WAR CRIMES COURT

Published on February 27, 2007, adnkronos international

Category: Meet the Muslim Albanian Leaders

Pristina, 26 Feb. (AKI) - An explosion damaged seven automobiles belonging to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the Kosovo town of Pec on Monday, just hours before former prime minister Ramus Haradinaj left for the Hague to stand trial before the United Nations' tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on charges of crimes against Serb and other civilians during the 1998/99 Kosovo conflict.

"Immediately after the explosion, the police found seven OSCE automobiles damaged at the scene as well as two private vehicles," local police spokesman Avni Djevukaj told media. He said the explosion took place at 3.30 am local time and the police discovered another unexploded device. An investigation of the blasts was continuing and police had no immediate knowledge of the perpetrators or their motives, he said.

Haradinaj, the former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1999 in the Pec region, has been indicted by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for alleged crimes against Serbs, Gypsies and ethnic Albanians loyal to Belgrade.

Haradinaj, the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, was Kosovo's prime minister when he was indicted in 2004 and surrendered voluntarily to the the ICTY. He was freed in June 2005, pending the start of his trial, which will begin on 5 March. Chief ICTY prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has voiced concern that Haradinaj might influence the court witnesses while free, but the court had even allowed him to continue his public activities.

One of the ICTY potential witnesses was run over by a car and killed in a suspicious accident in Montenegro this month, and Serbian media reported that many other witnesses had in the meantime changed their original statements.

Haradinaj was seen off by hundreds of his supporters at Pristina airport and vowed he would prove his innocence and return home soon. Last week, he was received in a farewell visit by the chief United Nations administrator in Kosovo Joachim Ruecker, as well as by Kosovo president Fatmir Seidiu and prime minister Agim Ceku. ICTY prosecutors had asked Ruecker not to see Haradinaj, but Ruecker ignored the call.

Ceku and Seidiu have said they believe Haradinaj is innocent, while the British-based Observer newspaper noted that Haradinaj had received "unprecedented treatment for someone accused of war crimes." Kosovo, most of whose 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority demands independence, has been under UN control since 1999 and the final round of UN sponsored talks on a proposal for "supervised independence" for the province is due to resume on Tuesday in Vienna.

A Kosovo Serb leader, Rada Trajkovic, said the Pec explosions were aimed at applying pressure on the ICTY to acquit Haradinaj and to steer Vienna talks towards granting independence for the province in which ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs by 17 to one.


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