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Albania: “Terror” Suspects Arrest Questioned

Controversial detention of suspected Albanian militants seen as attempt to curry favour with Skopje and Washington.
By Alma Lama

Albania has been accused of bypassing its own judicial procedures in an attempt to impress Macedonia and the United States.

It’s emerged that Albania’s judiciary may not have a sound legal basis for holding Gafurr Adili and his travelling companion Taip Mustafaj - both on America’s blacklist of terrorist suspects - who were arrested by Albanian police on July 1 near the Macedonian border.

They were charged with “encouraging ethnic, national and racial hatred”, but the authorities here admit that their evidence is thin.

On July 11, Macedonia’s defence minister Vlado Buckovski praised the detention of Adili - accused of links with the outlawed Albanian Liberation Army, ANA - adding that two warrants had been issued in Skopje for his arrest on charges of extremism and planning hostilities.

However, he can’t be extradited as Skopje has yet to issue an international arrest warrant for him.

Analysts and politicians are now questioning the legality of the arrests, suggesting they were motivated by a desire to curry favour with Skopje and Washington – charges the Albanian judiciary has rejected.

Aleksander Cipa, an analyst for the main Tirana daily newspaper Koha Jone, told IWPR, “It is clear that the arrest is the Albanian government’s attempt to win points with the US, because Adili has never committed any militant or illegal actions within Albania.”

And Arber Xhaferri, the leader of Macedonia’s Democratic Party of Albanians, described the detentions, and the extensive media coverage that followed them, as “mostly for show”. He also criticised the authorities for attempting to portray Adili as an “Albanian [Osama] bin Laden”.

“There was no good reason for Albania to please the Macedonians and Americans by arresting Adili, as there was no international warrant out for him,” Xhaferi told IWPR.

The European Union has insisted that Albania show greater cooperation with neighbouring states if its ambition of EU membership is to be achieved by 2010 – and the detention of Adili in particular is being seen as a symbolic gesture to please the US.

Albania’s president Alfred Moisiu said that it was “normal for the government to take measures against the [two men], since their names are on America’s list [of terrorist suspects]”.

However, analysts note that the authorities in Macedonia and Kosovo, which are home to a number of individuals blacklisted by the US, have yet to use the latter as a pretext to round up suspects.

The Macedonian interior ministry has filed two separate criminal charges against Adili in recent years, one for alleged extremism in 2000, and another last August for unspecified hostile activities.

Interior ministry spokesperson Mirjana Kontevska told IWPR that if found guilty, the suspect could be sentenced to more than ten years in prison for the second charge.

But as Skopje has yet to issue an international arrest warrant for him, it seems highly unlikely that he will face these charges.

Meanwhile, in Tirana, the authorities are struggling to build a serious case against him. Etleva Londo, of the Albanian General Public Prosecutors’ Office, admitted to IWPR, that, for the moment, they do not possess sufficient evidence to back up any charge of inciting ethnic hatred. “While we are still investigating his alleged links with the ANA, the only evidence we have against Adili so far relates to the use of a forged passport,” she said.

The ANA, which is dedicated to the formation of a Greater Albania, emerged during the Macedonian conflict and has since claimed responsibility for several illegal actions in southern Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Alma Lama is a regular IWPR contributor and Jeta Xharra is IWPR’s Kosovo Project Manager

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