Serbia Releases 3 Kosova Police Officers After Arrests Fueled Balkan Tensions

A court in Serbia released three police officers from Kosova who had been kidnapped in the territory of Kosova by Serbian special forces, but a Serbian negotiator said Monday that the trio still faced further legal action.

The officers returned to Kosova after a court in the central Serbian town of Kraljevo said they would be allowed to remain free pending any additional proceedings. They were charged with illegal possession of weapons and explosive devices, the court said.

Serbia insists the three crossed into the country from Kosova, but Kosovar authorities have shown proof of their kidnapping and accuse Belgrade of breaching its agreement with NATO. NATO-led KFOR command have been vague in its statement about the incident, probably out of caution as the situation in the northern part of Kosova remains tense.

The United States and the European Union had joined Kosova’s government in demanding their freedom.

Serbia’s chief negotiator with Kosova, Petar Petkovic, said the officers’ release from detention was a court decision “and not a political one.” An investigation and their possible prosecution will continue, Petkovic said.

Kosova’s president, Vjosa Osmani, thanked the United States for securing the policemen’s release “after the act of aggression that Serbia did in Kosova.” Officials said they wanted Serbia held responsible for the alleged incursion into Kosova’s territory.

“Even though we are joyous that they get to return to their families, this abduction consists of a serious human rights violation & must be reprimanded,” Prime Minister Albin Kurti tweeted.