Albania fights Croatia’s extradition of drone flyer to Serbia

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 4, 2017 11:33

Albania fights Croatia’s extradition of drone flyer to Serbia

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  • A small demonstration in support of Morina also took place in from the of the Albanian Prime Minister’s Office with supporters carrying Albanian and Croatian flags as well as the banner which made Morina famous, which depicted Albania’s founding fathers, Ismail Qemali of Vlora and Isa Buletini of Mitrovica in Kosovo, a map of the territories Albania claimed in 1912 and the word “autochthonous,” indicating Albanians’ status as one of the region’s oldest peoples, indigenous to the Balkans.

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TIRANA, Aug. 2 – Albania’s highest government and football authorities have urged Croatia not to extradite to Serbia an Albanian fan wanted in Belgrade for flying a drone with nationalist message above the stadium during the Albania – Serbia game three years ago.

A court in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik is to rule on whether Ismail Morina, known more widely as Ballist Morina, could be extradited to Serbia to face charges that could land him in prison four eight years. Albanian authorities and Morina’s family say his life would be in danger if he is taken to Serbia, where nationalist groups have threatened to kill him.

Morina also filed for political asylum in Croatia in the hopes of delaying extradition, his lawyer told Albanian media.

The office of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he had reached out directly to his Croatian counterpart on the margins of a summit of regional heads of government in Montenegro to urge him to stop the extradition to Serbia.

It was the latest effort by Albanian authorities to get Morina out of the situation, with opposition-appointed caretaker ministers working together with their ruling majority colleagues to pursue the same goal.

Justice Minister Gazmend Bardhi sent a letter to his counterpart in Croatia, who has the right to stop the extradition.

The letter notes that Morina, an Albanian citizen, risks persecution or politically motivated discrimination because of his statehood and status if extradited, which constitutes a violation of a fundamental human rights.

The Albanian Football Federation also announced that it was sending legal aid to Morina in Croatia and adding that its officials have been lobbying with authorities in Albania and Croatia to help Morina.

A small demonstration in support of Morina also took place in from the of the Albanian Prime Minister’s Office with supporters carrying Albanian and Croatian flags as well as the banner which made Morina famous, which depicted Albania’s founding fathers, Ismail Qemali of Vlora and Isa Buletini of Mitrovica in Kosovo, a map of the territories Albania claimed in 1912 and the word “autochthonous,” indicating Albanians’ status as one of the region’s oldest peoples, indigenous to the Balkans.

Serbs in the Belgrade stadium where the match was taking place saw the banner as a provocation. They invaded the pitch and hit Albanian players. The game had to be interrupted and was later awarded to Albania.

Croatian police in Dubrovnik detained Morina in June, acting on a Serbian arrest warrant issued through Interpol. Morina was heading to Italy where he has lived for years with his family.

Should Morina be extradited to Serbia, he will face charges of inciting criminal acts between nations, which can lead up to eight years in prison.

Darko Butigan, a Croatian defence lawyer hired to represent Morina, told Albanian media the charges were baseless, and he had appealed the decision to Croatia’s Supreme Court and asked EU institutions where Croatia is a member to intervene.

“The extradition cannot be carried out until the procedure that we have followed for his protection finishes … We have done this because we believe that in Serbia, Morina is not going to get a fair trial, based on his Albanian nationality,” Butigan said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told local media Morina perpetrated a crime and must face the charges.

“We have done our job, and we are waiting for a decision,” Vucic said. “We have nothing to talk about or to negotiate with anyone.”

Serbian authorities said they would guarantee Morina’s safety while he undergoes trial, but his family told Albanian media they were certain he would not make it out of the country alive if he is sent there.

James Montague, an international journalist who wrote about Morina for the New York Times, had a chance to meet him again in Dubrovnik prison and he said he could hardly recognize the man.

“It was evident that he was anxious not only about extradition, but also about his future. He has received many death threats and it seemed he fears for his life and that of his family,” Montague said in an interview with Albanian media.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 4, 2017 11:33