Reports: Haradinaj to be new Kosovo PM

According to media reports, the new prime minister of Kosovo will be Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo.

Source: B92
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This came after opposition parties managed to reach an agreement in the wake of Sunday's early elections for the assembly in Priština.

The local media there are reporting this Tuesday that Haradinaj's party along with the Democratic League of Kosovo and the newly formed Initiative for Kosovo ("Nisma") agreed on forming a coalition that will send Hashim Thaci and his Democratic Party of Kosovo to the opposition, although it won the most votes in the election.

The "unexpected agreement " was signed by Haradinaj, Isa Mustafa and Fatmir Limaj, a source told the Albanian language newspaper Express, while other media are reporting that that the new government will also be supported by Albin Kurti's Self-Determination.

According to the still unofficial elections results, Thaci's party leads with 30.71 percent of the vote, followed by the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo with 25.75 percent, Self-Determination with 13.51 percent, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo with 9.61 percent, and the Initiative for Kosovo with 5.24 percent.

Twice-acquitted

Haradinaj, like Thaci, is a former leader of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA; OVK; UCK). After the war in Kosovo in 1999, he entered politics, was indicted for committing war crimes by the Hague Tribunal, and then twice acquitted.

Instead of the 39 counts of the original indictment, the new trial of Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj saw them charged with six. These included the murder and torture of prisoners in the KLA camp in Jablanica. As in the first trial, which ended up in acquittal due to a lack of evidence, the prosecution in the retrial faced similar problems - frightened witnesses who changed their statements or refused to testify at all.

Haradinaj is an ethnic Albanian, a Muslim, born in 1968 in the village of Glođane near Dečani in Metohija. He left the former Yugoslavia in 1989 and moved to Switzerland, where he received political asylum and for a time worked as a bouncer in nightclubs.

There he joined "the People's Movement of Kosovo," and extremist organization which later produced the KLA. According to media reports, he received military training in Albania in 1996 and then participated in the setting up of "bases" in Kukes and Tropoje, in northern Albania.

From there, the reports said, the smuggling of weapons into Kosovo was conducted. During one of these "operations" Haradinaj was ambushed by Yugoslav border guards and wounded, while his brother Luan was killed.

In early 1998 he became the commander of the "operational zone" for Metohija, which Albanians refer to as "Dukadjin". It is estimated that under his command, over a period of two years, more than 300 people were executed - Serbs and "disloyal" Albanians - while 400 more were kidnapped. The remains of some of the victims were found after the 1999 war in Lake Radonjić and also in village wells in the municipality of Dečani.

The authorities in Belgrade have filed 108 criminal charges against Haradinaj, on suspicion that he committed acts of terrorism, conspired to perform hostile activities, and for the killing of civilians.

In his autobiography entitled, "The Story of War and Freedom", Haradinaj noted: "We were constantly attacking Serbian forces. Everywhere. Day and night. Without hiding. Every day we killed Serbian policemen."

During the NATO bombing campaign that started in March 1999 and lasted until June the same year, according to the western agencies, Haradinaj was one of NATO's major associates in Kosovo and Metohija, and one of a few KLA commanders that the military alliance provided with satellite phones to coordinate attacks. In July 2000 Haradinaj was wounded again, this time during a shootout with the family Musa, with whom he had a blood feud.

He suffered another blow in 2002 when international judges in Kosovo sentenced his brother Daut to five years in prison for involvement in kidnapping and torture which resulted in the death of four members of the FARK armed formation that was close to Ibrahim Rugova, then the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo.

After the NATO intervention, Haradinaj was appointed deputy commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps, but after a few months resigned and founded a political party called the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. He came to power in 2004 in coalition with Rugova's party and became prime minister.

However, in March 2005, the Hague Tribunal (ICTY) indicted him for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. Haradinaj then resigned and voluntarily surrendered to the Tribunal. He and his two co-defendants, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, were transferred to the Hague.

Head of the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, Soren Jessen-Petersen said on the occasion that he respected Haradinaj's decision - but "regretted the fact he would no longer cooperate with a close partner and friend."

The trial ended in April 2008 and Haradinaj was acquitted for lack of evidence. Balaj was also set free, while Brahimaj was sentenced to six years in prison. Then chief Hage Prosecutor Carla del Ponte repeatedly said publicly, and warned in her reports that the prosecution witnesses were subjected to persistent and drastic threats and pressures, causing some to refuse to testify.

One of the key witnesses, Kurtim Berisha, died ahead of his planned testimony in an alleged traffic accident. Taking into account the prosecution's appeal, the Appellate Chamber of the ICTY in July 2010 ordered a partial retrial for Haradinaj, who was once again detained. The retrial also ended in his acquittal.

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