Kosovo’s flying independence lobbyist, James Berisha, is being held in prison in Eritrea, it emerged on Thursday afternoon, two weeks after he was reported missing.
Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry, MFA, revealed on Thursday that James Berisha, who is touring Africa in a bid to convince countries to recognize Kosovo’s independence, is being held in prison.
Foreign minister Enver Hoxhaj has asked for help from the foreign ministries of Germany, France and Saudi Arabia to assist with the release of Berisha.
“Those countries have good relations with Eritrea and we asked them to help us for the release of Berisha from prison,” Artan Behrami, MFA spokesperson told Balkan Insight.
The ministry was unable to say if Berisha why he had been arrested.
"The MFA is trying through diplomatic channels to release James Berisha and say to Eritrean officials that Berisha's presence in Eritrea has to do solely with lobbying for Kosovo's independence, nothing else," said Behrami.
MFA stated that according to the information’s received, Berisha’s was in good health and was being treated well by Eritrean officials.
At the end of May, Berisha crash-landed in Sudan, after a cylinder of the Cessna 172 4-seater plane broke and blocked the supply of fuel to the engine.
He was unharmed. On August 15, he took a commercial flight to continue his mission, and flew from Sudan to Eritrea. Nothing has been heard from him since.
Lumnije Gashi, who is based in Pristina and has been tracking Berisha's moves in Africa, said he received the last email from Berisha on August 15, the day he landed in Asmara, Eritrea.
“In this email, Berisha warned us that he may be arrested,” Gashi told Balkan Insight.
A resident of the US state of Texas who grew up in Kosovo, Berisha started flying across Africa last November, asking African states to recognise Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008.
Berisha, 39, flew all over Latin and Central America in 2009, visiting 34 countries and four territories to thank states that had recognised Kosovo’s independence and lobby others that have not.
He was planning to continue his lobbying mission in Asia. Berisha spent his childhood in Kosovo and then left for Western Europe to fulfil his dream of becoming a pilot.