AIM: start

SAT, 22 DEC 2001 22:58:54 GMT

Kostunica Pardoned the Albanian Student Leader from Kosovo

Kurti Free, But Not Happy

Albin Kurti, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison, was released after serving two years. He came to Kosovo in a car belonging to the International Red Cross and was sent off from Serbia without attracting much attention of the press which had carefully followed his trial in Nis, when he exhilarated and at the same time appalled both Yugoslav and foreign journalists with his revolutionary stands.

AIM Belgrade, December 15, 2001

Several days before the international human rights day, and in that connection, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica decided to release one of Albanian student leaders from Kosovo, Albin Kurti and thus spare him from yet another weekend he would have to spend in prison. Under the veil of darkness, just before the weekend, Kurti arrived to Kosovo in a vehicle of the International Red Cross sent off from Serbia without much journalistic pomp that followed his Nis trial, when he both exhilarated and appalled the Yugoslav and foreign journalists with his revolutionary stands.

"On the occasion of the international human rights day and on the proposal of the Yugoslav Committee of Jurists for Human Rights (JUKOM) submitted to the Federal Ministry of Justice, the FRY President, Vojislav Kostunica made a decision on Kurti's release..." read the announcement of the Office of the FRY President. Naturally, the Office did not forget the fate of missing and abducted FRY citizens so that it observed Kurti's release from prison in view of the hope that "this decision would contribute to the intensification of dialogue that will enable safe return of the Serbs, Romas, Bosniacs and other people displaced from Kosovo and Metohija and help establish the fate of missing and abducted FRY citizens and their return to their closest". Kostunica made the decision on Kurti's release at the right moment and evidently not wanting to burden the Serbian nation with "such trifles". At that time the nation was marvelling at successes of the Yugoslav foreign policy by following the visit of the French President, but was also appalled by the sad destiny of the President of Serbian Parliament. Kurti's timed release, realised under the pressure of the international community and the French President or not, did not make Kurti very happy so that without showing any gratitude he told the gathered journalist in Pristina that he had not asked for any pardon and that the fact that his friends remained in Serbian prisons made him miserable.

"What I least wanted has happened. I was the only one to be set free, while my friends will remain in Serbian prisons", explained Kurti pointing out that "he never asked for amnesty or pardon", but only the respect of the international law, as well as the rights of his people. "Pseudo-democratic regime in Belgrade used my release as a means to extend the slavery of other prisoners. At this moment I miss them more than I miss my family", was Kurti's answer to the regime that set him free.

Nevertheless, those whose appeals FRY President acknowledged, humbly concluded that much stronger political considerations were behind Kurti's release. "If Kurti was set free now at our request, it would be a proof that this state has finally proved that it is democratic. Although I personally think that Kurti was released also because of some other political reasons", said Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, the JUKOM President, explaining that Kurti "was a symbol of political captivity in Serbia".

"Amnesty is a just act, because it is clear to everyone that those were staged political trials, which is testified to by the records on a number of violations that were committed during proceedings", said the JUKOM President.

Among a number of proceedings against the Kosovo Albanians, who had been mostly charged by the District Court in Nis with assisting the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Kurti's trial had been noticed because the accused totally disregarded the bill of indictment, and took advantage of the opportunity to repeat his political stands. In contrast to his fellow-countrymen who before the Nis court denied all charges, in a style of a young revolutionary Kurti first said that he did not recognise the Serbian court, same as he did not recognise the state of Serbia, after which he declared that he was a citizen of the Republic of Kosovo. "I do not recognise this court and will only answer before the court of my people. This court is in the service of everyday politics of Slobodan Milosevic's regime", explained Kurti his reasons for refusing the assistance of a defence counsel.

Refusing to state his plea, Kurti made a brief political speech in which he stated that, as a member of the Presidency of the Independent Union of the Pristina University Students, he had organised demonstrations with the aim of having the University premises vacated, from which, according to him, the Albanian students were thrown out by force. "The demonstrations were also a means to an end - the Independent Republic of Kosovo - which the Albanian people have voted for at the 1991 referendum. We were against the Serbian regime which applied terror and systematic repression against the Albanian people with its military and police forces", said Kurti then. Speaking in the Albanian language, frequently correcting the sworn court interpreter in fluent Serbian, Kurti also said that the KLA waged a liberation war and a just struggle with a sacred aim - to establish an independent Kosovo and liberate Albanians from Milosevic's fascist regime.

Presenting his revolutionary stands before the court, former winner of the tolerance award of the Belgrade daily "Our Struggle" (Nasa Borba) did not leave any possibility for a surprise verdict. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for violating the territorial integrity of the FRY and conspiring to undertake hostile activity connected with terrorism. After two years in prison, this political prisoner was released by a decision on pardon which he did not ask for. But, the decision came in handy as a proof of Yugoslavia's cooperativeness, although made by the FRY President, who with his stands doesn't leave an impression of being very cooperative.

Zoran Kosanovic