Haradinaj's career: From bouncer to prime minister

BELGRADE -- Ramush Haradinaj's career spans from night clubs to government buildings, but it is his acquittal on war crimes charges that has once again shaken the region.

(FoNet, file)
(FoNet, file)

The 44-year-old is an ethnic Albanian, born in the village of Glođane, in the Dečani municipality in Kosovo. In 1989 he left Yugoslavia under a false name, and headed for Switzerland. There he became a night club bouncer, and also joined an organization that will later become the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

When he returned to the country nine years later, in 1998, he became the commander of the "operative zone" of the KLA in Metohija - referred to as "Dukagjin" by Albanians. Estimates are that, within the space of two years under his command, more than 300 people were killed in the area - Serbs, as well as "disloyal" ethic Albanians - while some 400 were kidnapped.

A total of 108 criminal complaints have been filed against him, while Haradinaj in his autobiography wrote that his group was "killing Serb policemen every day".

The self-confessed killer also wrote: "I liquidated Serb policemen, killed Serb civilians, removed disobedient Albanians."

The book was entitled, "Stories of war and freedom".

After the 1999 NATO bombing, Haradinaj was appointed almost to the top of the Kosovo Protection Corps, but soon resigned to enter politics. He founded a party of his own - the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo - and in 2004 became the prime minister of the government in Priština.

Soon, however, the Hague Tribunal's war crimes indictment arrived there - and Haradinaj voluntarily traveled to the face the charges..

After the original trial that took three years to complete, he was acquitted on all counts of the indictment, although former Chief Hague Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte warned that witness intimidation was what had "contributed the most" to this outcome.

A partial retrial was ordered for this reason, but Haradinaj was granted a rare privilege not to be detained for its duration. However, the problem of intimidated witnesses, murdered eyewitnesses, and difficulty in presenting the evidence recurred, and the retrial ended on Thrusday with a fresh acquittal.

Haradinaj returned to Priština to his wife and two children, and a political ambition to once again become the prime minister in Priština.

It would seem that a coalition with Hashim Thaci's party will make this possible - and in that way, allow for the two persons that had led the KLA to today lead Kosovo.