FILE - In this Tuesday Feb. 2, 1999 file photo, Adem Demaci, right, the political representative of the Kosovo Liberation Army, talks to the media during a press conference in Pristina. Adem Demaci, a human rights defender who embodied Kosovo’s national resistance and was often called the “Balkans’ Mandela,” has died at 82, it was reported on Thursday July 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu, File)

Kosovo's last respects to Demaci, its human rights 'Mandela'

July 27, 2018 - 7:37 am

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo paid its last respects on Friday to Adem Demaci, its famed human rights defender, or so-called "Kosovo's Mandela," who embodied resistance against authoritarianism.

A three-day mourning began with flags at half-mast for Demaci, who died a day earlier of natural causes. He was 82.

The parliament held a commemorative session with the presence of top parliamentary leaders from neighboring Albania and Macedonia.

"We have lost ... the symbol of our national movement for Kosovo's freedom and independence, the hero, our inspiration," said Speaker Kadri Veseli.

Demaci's body was put at the parliament's hall where hundreds of people paid their last respects for the man who avoided supporting specific political parties for long, and remained critical of their leaders.

"My father will be calm when Kosovo is better organized," said Demaci's son, Shqiptari (Translated as 'Albanian' in English).

Demaci was arrested three times and spent 28 years in jail for resisting then-Yugoslavia's communist regime. In 1991, he was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and in 2010 he received the order Hero of Kosovo.

In 1991, he was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and in 2010 he received the Hero of Kosovo award.

He was also for a time the leading politician of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the independence fighters in the country's 1998-1999 war, which ended after NATO intervened to stop a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists.

Demaci, who studied literature, law and education, was first known as writer, especially for his 1958 novel titled "The Snakes of Blood," which explored blood vendettas in Kosovo and Albania.

After the war, he participated in politics, held several media posts and became more involved in defending the rights of minorities. He also held the post of the president of the country's Writers' League.

Demaci's burial ceremony will be held Saturday. He is survived by a wife, a son and a daughter.

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