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Thaci: Time Needed To Mull Whether Convicted Ethnic Serb Can Join Top Kosovar Court


Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci

PRISTINA -- The office of Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci says thorough "verification" is needed before he can make a decision on whether to allow an ethnic Serb convicted of corruption in neighboring Serbia to join Kosovo's Constitutional Court.

“Because of the suspicions raised about [Radomir] Laban, the president of the Republic of Kosovo will not issue his decree until the competent security and judicial bodies complete the verification," Thaci's office told RFE/RL on May 24.

Opposition politicians and watchdog groups have criticized Kosovo’s parliament for nominating Laban last week to be a judge on the country’s Constitutional Court as a representative of the ethnic Serb minority.

He was nominated by the Serbian List party that represents Kosovar Serbs, estimated at 5 percent of the population. The Serbian List has ties to Belgrade but at times has shown its independence.

Thaci has two weeks to approve or reject the nomination.

Laban, who has a law degree, was sentenced in 2011 in Serbia to six years in prison for corruption when he was working for the Serbian customs service.

He served half of his sentence in pretrial detention between 2006-09, according to Serb records.

After his trial, Laban was provisionally released pending the start of his sentence, but he instead fled to Kosovo.

In 2017, a Serbian court in the town of Kraljevo issued an arrest warrant demanding he be handed back to Serbia.

The Human Rights Council in Kosovo also called on Thaci to reject the nomination.

Slavko Simic from Serbian List said ahead of Laban’s nomination on May 18 that he is a candidate of "high moral quality and integrity."

Belgrade and Pristina have strained relations. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but the move has not been recognized by Belgrade.

With reporting by Reuters
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