Sunday, April 17, 2005

Former Kosovo premier, provisionally freed, attends brother's funeral

Former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, freed for the occasion by the UN war crimes tribunal, attended Sunday the funeral of his brother Enver in western Kosovo, watched over by a strong police and NATO presence.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the UN-administered province were present at the funeral in the village of Glogjane to pay their respects to the Haradinaj family.

Haradinaj, who is not allowed to talk to the media during his "limited period" release by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), called on the mourners to support ethnic Albanian authorities in Kosovo to win independence for the province.

"With a huge pain in my heart, I would like to tell you that your biggest support and share in the pain of my family would be if you support the current processes in Kosovo which lead to the statehood of Kosovo," Haradinaj said in front of Enver's coffin.

Police units and NATO troops were deployed across the province to monitor main roads leading to the west of it, though the authorities described the situation as calm and without incidents.

"According to our reports, 70,000 people from all over the province attended the funeral... There was no significant incident in Kosovo reported to us during the day," police spokesperson Refki Morina told AFP.

Haradinaj's brother Enver, 22, was killed on Friday by unknown attackers in an ambush on the road leading from the western town of Pec to his home in Glogjane. Police are still investigating the killing.

He was a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) -- the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that fought in 1998-1999 to oust Serbian forces.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since the NATO-led bombing campaign forced Serbian forces under strongman Slobodan Milosevic to pull out in 1999.

Ramush Haradinaj resigned at the beginning of March after being indicted by the ICTY over his role as a KLA commander in the conflict.

On Saturday, the ICTY said it had agreed to the temporary release of the former Kosovo prime minister "for a limited period" so he could attend the funeral without specifying the length of the period.

Haradinaj arrived from The Hague in Kosovo earlier Sunday and was escorted by a special police unit to the village where the funeral was held according to the Albanian tradition, with only men taking part in the ceremonies.

Members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), an emergency response unit created out of the KLA after the war, carried the coffin, covered with the red Albanian flag with its two-headed eagle, from the Haradinajs' home to the cemetery.

Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi and parliamentary speaker Nexhat Daci led a large group of senior politicians, among them Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Namik Dokle.

Two other Haradinaj brothers, fighting with the guerrillas, were killed by Serbian security forces.

A third brother, Daut Haradinaj, also a former guerrilla, is serving a five-year prison term for the murder and illegal detention of four ethnic Albanians in 1999, still missing and presumed dead.

However, the UN mission which has administered the province since 1999, released him for a few hours to attend the funeral.

Frasher Haradinaj, 17, is the only one of the Haradinaj's six brothers who is still free and at home.