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Opposition lawmakers arrested in Kosovo

November 30, 2015

The ruling coalition in Kosovo has barred the opposition from attending a parliamentary session, after opposition hardliners activated tear gas in the chamber. The government critics urged people to join street protests.

Kosovo Parlament Tränengas Polizei Pristina
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P.Prenaj

The Kosovo police detained Fisnik Ismali, representative of the nationalistic Self-Determination Movement, as he tried to enter the parliamentary hall with two tear gas canisters, officials said Monday.

Two other opposition members of parliament activated tear gas in the chamber and the lobby, breaking up the session. At least one of them was also arrested, according to the opposition party Initiative for Kosovo.

The party demanded all of the detained MP's to be "released immediately."

This is the fifth tear gas attack in the parliament since early October.

The government critics staunchly oppose an EU-brokered deal with Serbia, which envisions more rights for Serbian communities in the former Serbian province. A deal on border demarcation with Montenegro has also caused outrage among the Kosovo hardliners.

Urging street rallies

On Monday, the Self-Determination Movement said they would "not allow" parliamentary sessions to continue before government renounced both deals.

"We will protest inside the parliament and outside in the streets," Glauk Konjufca of the Self-Determination party told the Reuters news agency.

"One of the options is also early elections. Let them verify whether the Kosovo people support them," he added.

The police arrested the informal leader of the Self-Determination Movement Albin Kurti after a weekend rally, and detained another 86 members of his party who tried to prevent his arrest.

The movement is the main opposition force in the young country, populated predominately by ethnic Albanians.

Kerry to visit

The ruling majority continued the session later on Monday, with security barring opposition members from attending. MPs from the Self-Determination Movement decried the move, urging more people to come out to the streets.

"In a country with no opposition in the parliament, there is no parliament and it cannot be called a democracy," said lawmaker Aida Derguti.

The opposition has also launched a petition for a referendum against the deal with Serbia. The document has already collected 200,000 signatures in a country with 1.8 registered voters.

The Kosovo Constitutional Court has already suspended the EU-brokered accord in order to determine whether it is in line with Kosovo's constitution. The judges' decision is expected in January.

The Muslim-majority Kosovo remains a close ally of the US, the country that led the NATO airstrikes against Serbian forces in the breakaway war of 1999. However, the country faces a deep political and economical crisis, with many Kosovars attempting to emigrate to the West.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit Kosovo on Wednesday.

dj/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP, Beta)

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