March 23, 2018 / 9:06 AM / a year ago

Kosovo court clears Grande Mosque imam of inciting terrorism

The Basic Court of Pristina delivers a verdict against the imam of the grand mosque Shefqet Krasniqi (L), who was indicted of influencing young Kosovars into joining radical Islamic groups through his lectures, in Pristina, Kosovo March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hazir Reka

PRISTINA (Reuters) - 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 Islamic State. 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.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci, editing by Larry King

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