Reuters, June 07, 2005
Hague court grants Kosovo ex-PM provisional release
AMSTERDAM, June 6 (Reuters) - The U.N. tribunal in The Hague said on Monday it had decided to provisionally release former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj pending his war crimes trial.
Haradinaj is the most senior former Kosovo guerrilla to be indicted by the tribunal for alleged atrocities in the 1998-99 separatist war against Serb forces. He is considered a hero by many Kosovo Albanians.
A former regional commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Haradinaj surrendered to the U.N. tribunal in March, winning praise for his prompt compliance with the court.
"The Trial chamber is satisfied that, if released, he will appear for trial and that there are no indications that he will pose any danger to victims, witnesses or other persons," the tribunal said in a statement.
Chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte said last month she opposed his provisional release saying it could hinder the prosecution's investigation. The tribunal said any appeal of its decision had to be filed within 24 hours.
Haradinaj faces charges of murder, rape and deportation of Serb civilians. He denies the charges.
Kosovo's government has called for Haradinaj's release pending trial and offered legal assistance for his defence. No date has yet been set for the start of the trial.
Lauded for his "dynamic" leadership, diplomats say Haradinaj's departure left a gaping hole in Kosovo's government as the province nears negotiations on its final status.
Kosovo remains formally part of Serbia but its Albanian majority demands independence.
Some analysts say Haradinaj's presence, albeit behind the scenes, could give Kosovo's leadership renewed direction and discipline as it strives to meet standards of democracy and minority rights the West has set as a condition for the talks.
Kosovo was placed under U.N.-led administration in 1999 after 78 days of NATO bombing expelled Serb forces accused of atrocities against civilians while they fought to smother the ethnic Albanian insurgency.