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Former Kosovar Parliament Speaker To Face War Crimes Charges In The Hague

Police in front of former guerrilla leader and ex-speaker of Kosovo's parliament Jakup Krasniqi's house in Pristina on November 4.
Police in front of former guerrilla leader and ex-speaker of Kosovo's parliament Jakup Krasniqi's house in Pristina on November 4.

A former guerrilla leader and ex-speaker of Kosovo's parliament has been transferred to The Hague to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity after his arrest during a special operation in Pristina.

The Hague-based war crimes prosecutors in cooperation with local police and the European Union's rule-of-law mission (EULEX) took Jakup Krasniqi into custody on November 4. He was later transferred to the detention facilities of the Kosovo Special Chambers (KSC).

Former Kosovar Parliament Speaker Detained By War Crimes Prosecutors
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“The arrest was carried out by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO), pursuant to a confirmed indictment related to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and an arrest warrant and transfer order issued by a Pre-Trial Judge of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers,” the KSC said in a news release.

Police and investigators spent about 10 hours at Krasniqi’s house before taking him into custody.

Krasniqi is a onetime spokesman for the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) who rose to chair Kosovo's parliament after independence and even spent time as acting president dating back to 2011.

The Kosovar government issued a statement about the arrest and detention.

"Kosovo, the bearers of institutions, as well as its citizens have consistently set an example of respect and cooperation with local and international justice," the government in Pristina said, adding, "The presumption of innocence must be respected in any case unless there is another decision of the competent court."

Krasniqi was questioned by SPO officials in July 2019.

His wife, Sevdije Krasniqi, told RFE/RL before the arrest that the authorities did not explain the operation and said she did not know why the investigators were at their home.

Krasniqi's political party, Social Democratic Initiative, responded to the events by saying "the scenes today are unnecessary and traumatic for the family," adding that Krasniqi had always complied with requests from judicial institutions.

The KSC and SPO were set up under Kosovar law outside the country to help probe possible atrocities during and after the Kosovar war of independence in 1998-99, and their operations are supported by the Kosovo's police and EULEX.

They are focused on alleged crimes committed by UCK members against ethnic minorities and political rivals during Kosovo's violent separation from Serbia.

Kosovar's independence war with Serbia left more than 10,000 people dead -- most of them ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. More than 1,600 people remain unaccounted for. The fighting ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbia.

Last month the KSC and SPO made their first arrest, detaining the former head of the intelligence service of the Kosovo Security Force, Salih Mustafa, on the basis of an arrest warrant and a confirmed indictment issued by a pretrial judge of the KSC.