French court refuses to extradite ex-Kosovo PM Haradinaj to Serbia

French court refuses to extradite ex-Kosovo PM Haradinaj to Serbia©Sébastien Bozon/AFP
Ramush Haradinaj at the french court in Colmar
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A French court on Thursday rejected a request by Serbia to extradite former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, who Belgrade accuses of committing war crimes during the 1998-1999 war in the Serbian Kosovo.

Haradinaj, 48, was arrested by French police on January 4 when he flew into the Franco-Swiss airport of Basel-Mulhouse, but he is free to return home following Thursday's decision by the court in Colmar, eastern France.

He told AFP in an interview this month that he is the victim of "political persecution".

Haradinaj, a lawmaker and opponent of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, is considered a war hero by many Kosovars.

Thousands of protesters called for his release in a protest in March in Kosovo's capital Pristina.

Haradinaj, an ex-commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, has already been tried and acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia after allegations of crimes stemming from 1998.

But Serbia is pursuing separate charges of violence against Serbian civilians in Kosovo in June 1999.