Artists in support of war crimes indictees; A billboard in Gracanica burns down

Foto: KoSSev

‘Freedom has a name – KLA’ – reads the slogan of a campaign created by a group of Kosovo artists, launched on the day Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli announced that the indictment issued against them by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office for KLA War Crimes had been confirmed. Billboards with the slogan can be seen throughout Kosovo, as well as on social networks and TV stations. Over the weekend, one such billboard located on the highway in Gracanica caught the public eye due to the negative reaction it stirred among the Kosovo Serb community – which interpreted it as a provocation. The media reported this morning that unknown perpetrators have reportedly set the same billboard on fire early this morning.

The initiative „Freedom has a name – KLA“ was launched by a group of six artists and intellectuals, two of whom participated in the Belgrade-based Merdita/Dobar dan festival – PDK MP and artist, Eliza Hoxha and actor and director, Fatmir Spahiu.

Other initiators of the campaign include the director Burbuqe Berisha – who in 2011, as the executive director-general of the National Theater in Pristina, opposed the screening of the play „Married Couple Martin“ in Atelje 212; one of the most famous hip-hop artists in Kosovo Festim Arifi, a philosopher and member of the Association of Kosovo Philosophers, Ismail Tasholli, and an Associated Press photographer, Visar Kryeziu.

According to the Facebook page of this initiative, the goal was to „initiate a debate on the latest history of Kosovo and the need for comprehensive collective memory on the path of collective pride in the future.“

Moreover, the creators stated that „the decades-long struggle for freedom and independence, people’s resistance to exclusion, violence, and discrimination has finally been crowned by the most sublime people’s organization in the struggle for freedom.“

„The KLA – The Kosovo Liberation Army emerged as a need to inspire and protect the existence and dignity of Albanians in Kosovo,“ the campaign’s creators concluded.

The campaign, which can mainly be seen on billboards throughout Kosovo, soon moved to TV studios, where its initiators spoke at length about it. It also enjoys the support of the Kosovo public service broadcaster RTK1, which glorified war crimes indictees through several short videos. The video about Hashim Thaci particularly stands out – in the video, the US president-elect Joe Biden is quoted as saying that Thaci is „Kosovo’s George Washington“.

In addition to these short videos, RTK1 has also been publishing numerous articles and interviews criticizing the Special Court and supporting everything related to the KLA.

During the weekend, one such billboard was placed on the highway Pristina-Gjilan/Gnjilane, in the territory of the municipality of Gracanica.

The mayor of this municipality, Srdjan Popovic objected to the billboard, stating that the citizens of Gracanica interpret it as a provocation. The head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic also issued a statement where he described the act as „the most open security threat“ to Serbs in central Kosovo.

Petkovic also pointed out that the Kosovo Albanians are „nowhere near to making a sincere departure from the crimes committed in their name.“

He also warned that Kosovo society is „moving in the direction of dangerous radicalization“ before the eyes of the international community.

The billboard, one of many throughout Kosovo, was burned down this morning, triggering numerous reports in the Kosovo media. They reported that the police have opened an investigation into this case, adding that according to the preliminary results of the investigation, it is suspected that the billboard was set on fire in the early morning hours.

„Enriched Campaign“

The initiators of the campaign state that it was launched voluntarily, noting that „other people of goodwill have been enriching it with documentaries and art.“

One such example, which was shared on the campaign’s page, includes portraits of the accused – Hashim Thaci, Rexhep Selimi, Jakup Krasniqi, and Kadri Veseli, signed by „Artisti.“

Thaci, Selimi, Krasniqi, and Veseli have been charged with 4 counts of war crimes and 6 counts of crimes against humanity – namely involuntary detention, torture and murder.

As participants in a joint criminal enterprise, they have been accused of committing these crimes against at least 407 prisoners in 34 KLA detention centers across Kosovo, as well as in Kukes and Cahan in northern Albania, and at least 98 murders. The indictment states that the accused committed these crimes against civilians and persons who did not take part in hostilities from March 1998 to September 1999.

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