Police have detained a man suspected of destroying Serbian Orthodox graves in Kosovo Polje but insisted that he wasn’t motivated by ethnic hatred.
|Destroyed gravestones in Kosovo Polje I Photo by Beta|
A police statement said that a 48-year-old man, named as M. Buzuku, an ethnic Ashkali, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon for allegedly vandalising more than 50 gravestones.
Police ruled out the possibility that ethnic or religious motives had caused him to damage the memorials at the cemetery in Kosovo Polje, saying that he had stolen some of the stones for personal gain.
The suspect has been charged with larceny, the statement said.
International organisations working in Kosovo have condemned the vandalism and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
The UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, said that “the destruction of graveyards in any community is contemptible”.
UNMIK said that municipalities throughout Kosovo have recently been participating in a restoration programme for Orthodox cemeteries.
“Unfortunately, such incidents seriously impede the progress achieved thus far,” the UN mission’s statement said.
The acting head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, Paivi Nikander, said that the desecration “highlights the absolute lack of respect for the dead and the ethnicity they belong to”.
However the head of the Kosovo Polje municipality, Burim Berisha, stressed that the area was “multi-ethnic and secure for all communities living there”.
The Serb population of Kosovo Polje has shrunk significantly since the war in Kosovo.