Kosovo detains main opposition figure over tear gas protests

Member of the Kosovo Parliament Albin Kurti (C) struggles while being detained by Kosovo police on November 24, 2017 in Pristina

Kosovo police on Friday arrested three leading members of the main opposition party, including its founder, over the firing of tear gas in parliament last year.

Albin Kurti, a member of parliament who founded the nationalist leftist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party, was detained by police as he approached the parliamentary building in Pristina, along with two female colleagues.

Police used pepper spray against other deputies who tried to prevent the arrests, which came after they refused to attend a summons to appear in court over the accusations.

Later on Friday court ordered a month's detention for the three.

Members of the party have repeatedly set off tear gas in parliament as a tool of protest, including against a border demarcation deal with Montenegro, which has yet to be ratified.

The party fiercely opposes the agreement, claiming it will cede hectares of Kosovo's land to its neighbour, but the deal is a condition for Kosovo's citizens obtaining visa-free travel in the European Union.

Four Vetevendosje activists, including a member of parliament, were jailed earlier this month for "terrorism" over a grenade attack on the parliament building last year, ahead of a vote on the border deal.

Visar Ymeri, currently the leader of the party, told reporters Friday that "a massive persecution" has been launched against them.

Having announced court's detention order on his Facebook profile, Ymeri accused the government of being behind the move.

"Persecution is directed against the Vetevendosje, because only Vetevendosje is an obstacle to their criminal enterprise," Ymeri wrote.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised by more than 110 countries, although not by Belgrade or Moscow.