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Europe

Former prime minister arrested in Bulgaria

Latest update : 2009-06-24

Former Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku has been arrested in Bulgaria, officials say. Ceku is wanted for war crimes allegedly committed as military chief of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1998-1999 war in then Serbian-ruled Kosovo.

AFP - Former Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku, who is wanted in Serbia on war crimes charges, was arrested Tuesday in Bulgaria, the interior ministry said.
  
"Agim Ceku was arrested Tuesday at Geshevo when he entered Bulgaria following an Interpol red notice," or an international arrest warrant, spokeswoman Diana Yankulova told AFP.
  
A Bulgarian court will look into his case in coming days, she added.
  
In the Kosovo capital Pristina, an official of Ceku's Social Democrat Kosovo party confirmed the arrest.
  
"Mr Ceku was detained at the Qustendil border crossing between Bulgaria and Macedonia at 5:30 pm (1530 GMT) following an arrest warrant issued by Serbia on May 9," party spokesman Gezim Kasapolli told AFP.
  
Ceku "was in Bulgaria to hold talks with (Bulgaria's) deputy foreign minister and other people," he added.
  
Talks are underway to free Ceku, he said. "We expect him to be freed early in the morning."
  
Ceku, 48, is wanted for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1998-1999 war in then Serbian-ruled Kosovo when he was military chief of the Kosovo Liberation Army, made up of ethnic Albanian guerrillas.
  
Serbia says he also committed war crimes in Croatia during the former Yugoslav republic's 1991-1995 war of independence. Ceku also has Croatian citizenship.
  
He last month criticised Serbia for allegedly misusing its membership of Interpol, after he was expelled from Colombia.
  
"I think time has come for Interpol to seriously consider this issue and tell Serbia it is enough," he told journalists in the Kosovo capital of Pristina
  
Ceku has said Serbia's arrest warrant had "no legal basis. It's a political arrest warrant."
  
Colombia expelled the politician on May 7 after authorities there received Belgrade's arrest warrant sent through Interpol.
  
But the next day France ignored the Serbian request when he was transiting on his way back to Europe.
  
Kosovo's Interior Minister Zenun Pajaziti earlier sent a letter to Interpol and its member states, asking them not to allow such cases to be repeated in the future.
  
The letter said that "Serbia has no jurisdiction over the Republic of Kosovo and its citizens".
  
It was not the first time an Interpol warrant initiated from Serbia caught up with Ceku. He had previously been detained in 2006 in Slovenia and Hungary.
  
Kosovo declared independence in February 2008 and has been recognised by more than 50 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union.
  
But Serbia and its powerful ally Russia have refused to recognise the move.
  
Kosovo itself is not a member of Interpol, although the body has opened a liaison office in Pristina.
  
Interpol, created in 1923, is the world’s largest international police organisation, with 187 member countries.
  
Its main goal is to support and assist all organisations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime.

Date created : 2009-06-24

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