The detention woes of Albin Kurti have been going on for way too long. It’s time to demand a change . . . NOW.
After the 10 February 2007 incident, Albin Kurti was “detained on remand,” which means he had to stay in jail pending the investigation without the possibility of paying bail. For the most part, this went on for 5 months, even after it was clear that Albin Kurti bore no legal responsibility whatsoever for the deaths of the two protesters. Part of the reasoning for keeping him in for that long was a) the suggestion that Kurti did, in fact, have some responsibility for the deaths of the two protesters; b) that he would repeat the offenses he was charged with (protesting that fell outside constitutional and legal protections); and c) that he would not return to court.
Of those three main reasons, only the last two had arguable legal merit. As for the first reason, it certainly did not make sense to categorize Kurti as a Class A prisoner (the most serious of prisoners) for his activities on 10 February 2007, particularly when it was beyond clear that he bore no legal liability for the deaths of the protesters. This underlying reason — which stood in the room like an 800 pound gorilla — was not disavowed by the judges in charge of his detention. Instead of making clear that the real reason for the detention was his apparent intention to not return to court or follow the court’s instructions, it appeared that Kurti’s detention was political or arbitrary.
Then, after an about face by Department of Justice (yes, as you know, that includes BOTH judges and prosecutors), they decided to keep Kurti in house detention and the prisons removed the Category A classification. That means: you can’t leave the house. Problem: Kurti lives in an apartment. Can’t leave the apartment for 24 hours? Ridiculous. You want to try? Can’t. There’s a police officer outside 24 hours. Top this one off: There was one order by the judge, which was later rescinded, in which Kurti could not associate with anyone from Vetevendosje.
Why? Because Vetevendosje was some kind of criminal organization? Give me a break. They are a political organization. They make waves. That’s what they do. Are they a criminal organization? Not even close. Do they have people who have committed crimes in the organization? Sure, but so does Kosovo’s government. So why has Kurti been detained and then put under house detention when there seems to be some faulty premises — particularly the whole mistaken idea that has been left to roost that he is legally responsible for the deaths?
I have spoken with sources that are familiar with the investigation and they have told me that there has been significant pressure from the U.S. Office. Yes, the U.S. Office is in Kosovo doing their thing, mucking things up where they can. Want some money? Hah, you’ve got to do this first. Hmmm. What is DOJ, some kind of Afghanistan tribal militia fighting the Taliban? Yes sir, may I have another?
What happened to independence from DOJ to make decisions? Don’t people know clearly that justice and politics do not mix at all? And, more importantly, the appearance of collusion — even if there wasn’t any — is disasterous for the legitimacy of the system? The law is based on evidence and provable facts, not on assumption and rumors. UNMIK and DOJ by extension have appeared to get that backwards. Now its facing the fact that it was too close to the buckshot when it went off. Now it has a lot of cleaning up to do.
Kurti is still in house detention, albeit with less restrictions. Since November, Kurti has been able to “go out” of his house from 10:00 to 7:00 p.m., and on days of trial, he has to remain in the house for 24 hours. Kurti was told by the court that it would release him from all house detention if he promised to return; he could not.
What gets me if the court is still willing to keep the restrictions of 10-7:00 p.m. on his house detention — despite the fact that he does not promise to return to court and concomitantly not follow the court orders — then why does the court even keep the restrictions in the first place? The whole premise falls flat if the reason the court is keeping him in is the very reason that it chooses to ignore?
The longer Kurti is kept in house detention, the longer it fuels the fire that Kurti’s prosecution is political. DOJ: wake up and smell the macchiato. It’s too little, too late. You have pie on your face. But if you move to rescind the house detention, it’ll look like your backtracking and pandering to Albin Kurti support groups. But you know what? Who cares? When it comes to detention issues with Kurti, groups like Vetevendosje and Free Albin Kurti are dead on right. When it comes to the trial, well, that’s a different thing. UNMIK’s handling of the first has negatively affected how it appears to be handling the second.
As I’ve already said maybe 3 times in this post, UNMIK and DOJ have concluded that Kurti bears no legal responsibility for the deaths of the protesters. What charge is left? Essentially this: protesting outside the protections of the constitution and the law. Back in the United States, these charges would essentially be misdemeanors. Of course, one of these charges, in which a defendant is a “leader” of an unlawful protest, can face a prison term up to 10 years. But you know what? I don’t foresee even if the prosecution proves that that Kurti will be sentenced to anywhere near 10 years, or even 1 year for that matter. In any event, its the seriousness, or more precisely, the lack of it, that further fuels concerns of why Kurti is in house detention.
If you’re worried about Kurti mucking up negotiations or causing unrest within Kosovo society, guess what UNMIK: you can’t detain him for that. This is not Pakistan.
Kurti should be released from house detention forthwith.