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Long-Time Kosovo Dissident Adem Demaci Dies At 82


Kosovar activist Adem Demaci (file photo)
Kosovar activist Adem Demaci (file photo)

Political activist and human rights defender Adem Demaci, a revered figure in Kosovo who was sometimes called "the Balkans' Mandela," has died at 82.

The news was announced by deputy parliament speaker Xhavit Haliti, who interrupted the July 26 parliamentary session to report Demaci's death: "our great teacher, the man who spent 28 years of his life in Serb prisons."

Lawmakers held a minute of silence in memory of Demaci.

Pristina hospital chief Bujar Gashi said Demaci died of natural causes.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci declared three days of mourning and said the late dissident's funeral would be with "the highest state honors."

Demaci was first known as a writer, especially for his novel, "The Snakes of Blood," which appeared in 1958 and explored blood vendettas in Kosovo and Albania.

He was arrested three times and spent 28 years in jail for resisting then-Yugoslavia's communist regime.

He was a human rights activist and headed the political wing of ethnic Albanian paramilitary fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) during the 1998-1999 war with Belgrade.

He remained in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, during the entire Kosovo war. Demaci was critical of Ibrahim Rugova and other Kosovar leaders who fled Kosovo during the conflict.

The war ended in the spring of 1999 after NATO launched a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia to stop a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovar Albanian separatists.