There was no credible evidence that the 44-year-old and two other comrades-in-arms were responsible for the murder and mistreatment of serbs, roma and alleged albanian collaborators in the jablanica prison camp, the court said in justifying its verdict. Haradinaj had already been acquitted in 2008 for lack of evidence.
In kosovo, unbridled jubilation broke out. In the capital pristina, fireworks were set off, and thousands of people who had followed the verdict on television screens were in each other’s arms, crying and laughing. Occasionally, the mannerists shot into the air with joy. In the evening, thousands buried haradinaj at the airport in pristina. Thunderous applause, a red carpet and again fireworks awaited the top politician.
Kosovo’s acting head of government hashim thaci, who also came to the airport, welcomed the acquittal: "this is the strongest proof that the KLA fought a just fight for freedom and did not commit any crime."Many men had returned to their old KLA uniforms from the civil war to receive haradinaj.
In 1998 and 1999, vastly outnumbered serbian militaries and free fighters had driven up to 800,000 albanians out of kosovo. The rebels faced defeat. Only nato bombs forced the serbs to retreat. Since then, the former province of kosovo, inhabited almost exclusively by albanians, was separated from serbia. It had become independent almost five years ago. But this was not recognized by belgrade.
Serbia was in shock because two croatian generals who had been involved in the expulsion of up to 200,000 serbs from croatia in 1995 had been acquitted by the tribunal shortly before. The hague has given the serbs "a new slap in the face", wrote the media in belgrade. The serbian government condemned the "verdict against a commander of the terrorist KLA, which has dealt a severe blow to international law," it said in a statement. It "encourages the extremists" because it is about "selective truth and the cover-up of crimes".
Serbian citizens also expressed shock. In thousands of mails and comments to the media they gave vent to their displeasure. "No to reconciliation with the terrorist government in pristina", "goodbye europe, you don’t have to wait for us" and "for the tribunal, even hitler would be innocent", were the comments.