Kosovo court clears Grande Mosque imam of inciting terrorism

This file image shows Kosovo’s top radical cleric, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Pristina, Shefqet Krasniqi is escorted by a Kosovo police officer as he leaves the court in September 2014 in Pristina. (AFP /Armend Nimani)
Updated 23 March 2018
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Kosovo court clears Grande Mosque imam of inciting terrorism

PRISTINA: A prominent Kosovo imam was acquitted on Friday of charges that he had encouraged Kosovars to join radical Islamic groups in Syria and Iraq.
Shefqet Krasniqi, the imam of the Grand Mosque of Pristina, was arrested in 2014. He was accused of inciting terrorism by encouraging young Kosovars to go to Syria and Iraq, of inciting hatred and of tax evasion.
Around 300 Kosovars have gone to Syria and Iraq since 2012 to fight with Daesh. About 70 have been killed but many, including women and children, are believed to be still there.
“I was convinced from the first day ... that all will end as it has ended today,” Krasniqi told the media after the verdict.
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters, and in 2015 Kosovo adopted a law making it a crime to fight in foreign conflicts, punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Kosovo’s population is nominally 90 percent Muslim but largely secular in outlook. No Islamist attacks have occurred on its soil, but in June 2017, nine Kosovars were charged with planning attacks at a soccer match in Albania against the visiting Israeli national team and its fans in November 2016.


Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

Updated 13 min 33 sec ago
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Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

  • Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
  • Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron fired the head of his personal security detail on Friday but faced criticism for failing to act sooner, after a video was released showing the man posing as a police officer and beating a protester while off duty in May.
Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
He had initially been suspended for just 15 days and allowed to return to work. Just days ago he was seen in public helping to organize security for celebrations for the return of France’s World Cup champion soccer team.
Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.
In the footage, which was released on Wednesday by Le Monde newspaper, Benalla can be seen dragging a woman away from a protest and later beating a male demonstrator. On Friday, French media released a second video which showed Benalla also manhandling the woman.
He had been given permission by the president’s office to attend the protests as an observer of the security operation, but had no authorization to take part in police work.
The president’s office brushed off accusations that it had responded only because the nearly three-month-old videos had become public. It said the decision had now been taken to fire Benalla because the bodyguard had improperly obtained a document while trying to make his case over the accusations.
“New facts that could constitute a misdemeanour by Alexandre Benalla were brought to the president’s attention,” an official at the presidential palace told Reuters. “As a result ... the presidency has decided to start Alexandre Benalla’s dismissal procedure.”
Critics of Macron called the president’s delayed response a characteristic sign that he is out of touch. It follows controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool at a presidential retreat and cutting remarks by the president about the costs of welfare.
After hours of debate in the lower house on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry.
“Why did he protect this person? Does he head up a parallel police force? Refusing to answer makes (Macron) complicit in these acts of violence,” Eric Ciotti, a senior member of the conservative Republicans party, said on Twitter.