Kosovars hail acquittal

Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and his wife, Anita, arrive in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.
Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and his wife, Anita, arrive in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. (VISAR KRYEZIU / Associated Press)

Cleared of war crimes, ex-premier returning to politics.

Posted: November 30, 2012

PRISTINA, Kosovo - A former prime minister of Kosovo pledged a return Thursday to political life after a U.N. war-crimes tribunal acquitted him for the second time of murdering and torturing Serbs and their supporters in Kosovo's war for independence.

Ramush Haradinaj returned to jubilant crowds in Kosovo and was given the red carpet treatment and greeted by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

"I am happy that international justice has confirmed our path to freedom was just and clean," Haradinaj said during a news conference flanked by Thaci. "I will work with all of you to move this country forward."

The verdict was issued in the U.N. court's first ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of Haradinaj and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a "miscarriage of justice" because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that was not retried, but he has served his sentence and will be released with the others.

The acquittals herald a political renaissance for Haradinaj, seen by the West before his 2005 indictment as a unifying force in Kosovo, but could complicate talks between Pristina and Belgrade on Kosovo's future.

Highlighting the deep division in the country, Serbian leaders in the ethnically split north reacted to the acquittal by deciding to prevent the construction of a jointly managed border crossing agreed upon in 2011 between Belgrade and Pristina during EU-mediated talks.

Haradinaj quit as Kosovo's prime minister in 2005 after just 100 days in office when his indictment was announced by the tribunal, but he remains popular at home.

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