Demanding Haradinaj’s Immediate Release/On the bitter cold Monday morning of January 9, 2017, the atmosphere in front of the French Embassy in Washington, DC was warmed up by the passion of a loud crowd chanting: “Free Ramush Haradinaj”, “We Protest the Illegal Arrest”, “Haradinaj is a Freedom Fighter, not a Criminal”, “Free Our Hero”, “O Ramush o Hero, Shqiptaria ty te do” (O Ramush, o Hero! All Albanians love you) and more, holding numerous posters and many American and Albanian flags. Elon of two, bundled up in a thick winter coat, carried on the arms of his father Istref Haxhosaj, was holding a small Albanian flag, while a girl of ten, Iliriana, alongside of her brother Leka of fifteen, was carrying a poster that read: “France, we love you, don’t hurt us, we don’t deserve it! Free our Hero!”
The crowd was protesting the January 4th arrest of Mr. Ramush Haradinaj by French police and demanding his immediate release. The protest was called by the 104-year-old Albanian-American organization, “The Pan-Albanian Federation of America – VATRA”. Protesters came from not only the Washington DC area but also as far as New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The President of Vatra, Dr. Gjon Bucaj, opened the rally and thanked everyone for coming to “protest the unjustified arrest of Ramush Haradinaj and ask from French authorities for his immediate release”. Various speakers who addressed the crowd expressed the feelings and the opinion of the Albanian-American community, in line with Albanians all over the world. Vice presidents Agim Rexhaj and Asllan Bushati, former reporter of the “Voice of America” Shaqir Salihu, Zef Balaj who anounced the message of support for the protest from the Albanian American Civic League, Dr. Hasan Ademaj, Marjan Cubi, the Editor of “Dielli” Dalip Greca; Avni Gecaj spoke in English and so did Merita Bajraktari-McCormack, the president of Vatra DC Chapter. The speakers expressed common views on different aspects regarding the arrest of Mr. Haradinaj and the petition to the French authorities for his release. The arrest was made on a warrant issued by Serbian authorities accusing him of alleged war crimes during the war in Kosova, a war that was initiated and imposed by the Serbian criminal regime of Milosevic. Based on those accusations, Haradinaj was originally indicted by the International Crime Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, where he voluntarily turned himself over in 2005 and was subsequently acquitted of all charges. In 2012, he was again summoned by the international court based on the same charges with supposedly new evidence provided by Serbia and for a second time was acquitted. This latest arrest is also based on the same warrant, kept active by Serbia who clearly attempts to embarrass Mr. Haradinaj, to discredit the war of the people of Kosova for freedom and survival, and to minimize their own savage crimes committed against the innocent Albanian people. The disturbing question is why France, a country of high standards of Freedom, Justice and Human Rights, should side in this instance with Serbia, who has shown disregard for those values of Western Civilization. This action benefits the Serbs and emboldens their politics of destabilization of Kosova, increases the likelihood of new conflicts with Albanians and beyond.
The intervention of the NATO alliance, including France, saved the Albanian population of Kosova from genocide and reversed the ethnic cleansing, in line with the goals Mr. Haradinaj was fighting for. The intervention was approved and embraced by democratic and freedom loving democracies of the world.
In the end, protesters agreed to monitor the course of events and to remain ready for other actions, should new developments dictate so.
A petition for the release of Mr. Haradinaj was given to the Embassy Personnel, with the request to pass it on to the proper authorities of the French Government.
Organizers of the protest had obtained the necessary permissions from local police, notified the State Department, the Kosovo Embassy in Washington and the General Consulate in New York.