Kosova: Joe Higgins denounces arrest of Albin Kurti, leader of LPV (Movement for self-determination)

On Saturday 12 June, the leader of the movement for self-determination (LPV), Albin Kurti, was arrested by the police, acting on behalf of the colonial-style ruling EULEX European Union authorities.

Joe Higgins, member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) denounced this arbitrary act. We publish his open letter to EULEX, KFOR, UNMIK and the Kosovarian authorities, calling on them to immediately release Albin Kurti.

Letter of protest: For the immediate release of Albin Kurti

For democratic rights in Kosova / Kosovo

Strasbourg, 14 June 2010

I understand that last Saturday 12 June, the Kosovan police arrested Albin Kurti on behalf of EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission). He was at a press conference explaining that his organisation, LPV – movement for self-determination, will take part in the coming parliamentary elections, when police brutally intervened. Using tear gas, they entered the building and people were injured.

All accusations against him are related to a demonstration on 10 February 2007, when the UN police shot dead two protestors in Prishtina. According to German media, two students, Mon Balaj and Arben Xheladini, were killed and 87 people injured, seven heavily injured. Rubber and plastic bullets were used against the demonstrators.

I understand that a UN-led investigation concluded the police reaction was unnecessary and avoidable, that the UN police unit responsible for the deadly shots used rubber bullets and demonstrators were shot above waist-height, and from a proximity contrary to regulations on the use of these bullets.

Following the demonstration, the International Police Commissioner resigned and left Kosova. As German media reported (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 14 June 2010), an investigation showed that Romanian police, acting on behalf of the UN mission, were responsible for the killing. Afterwards, these police were removed and brought back home – and later honoured by the Romanian government and by the UN mission.

No one has been brought to justice.

Instead, the only person still accused as a result of the 10 February 2007 is Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (Movement for Self-determination – LPV) activist, Albin Kurti, who is known for his leadership of non-violent student demonstrations against Milosevic, in 1997.

I understand that Albin Kurti is charged with leading or participating in a crowd committing a criminal offence, calling for resistance with violence or serious threats and leading or participating in a group obstructing official persons in performing official duties.

Kurti was asked to appear in court on 14 April, which he refused to do. The timing of this arrest – just at the moment when the most prominent organisation criticising the colonial style rule of EULEX, UNMIK and KFOR, announced that it would stand in the elections – underlines how justified his criticisms are.

As I previously insisted in February 2010, I call for an immediate end to this politically motivated court case against Kurti and the dropping of all charges against him. I call for a genuine independent investigation into the deaths caused by the international police in February 2007.

The conditions for workers and the poor in Kosovo are terrible, as a result of the neo-liberal policies implemented under the rule of the UN and EU. The health system was destroyed. Privatisations brought profits for a few but worse conditions for the people in Kosovo.

I support the struggle of all workers, youth and poor people in Kosovo to defend their living conditions against these attacks. I strongly demand that all attempts to intimidate workers, youth and poor people are stopped and that the workers’ movement and all people in Kosovo be allowed full democratic rights.

I and the Committee for a Workers’ International, which is organized in over 35 countries, on all continents, will closely follow and highlight Albin Kurti’s case until he is released and all charges are dropped.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Higgins

Socialist Party (Committee for a Workers’ International in Ireland)

Member of the European Parliament

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June 2010