Ibrahim Sulejmani, a 39 year-old former commander of the disbanded Albanian guerrilla force that fought the short lived 2001 Macedonian conflict, has died on Wednesday in a Macedonian prison.
Archive video footage of Sulejmni
The former rebel known by his wartime nickname “Commander Mimi” was found dead in a prison cell in the Stip Prison where he was serving a 15 years sentence for kidnapping of four people during the conflict who are still missing and presumed dead.
“During the wake up call in the morning the other prisoners have noticed that Sulejmani was not responding and have immediately called the prison guards. A medical team has determined the death at the spot,” said Snezana Saneva, the spokesperson for the Stip police.
While an investigative judge is currently working on the case, the head of the prison administration, Lidija Gavrilovska, told the media that preliminary findings point out that Sulejmani died of natural causes.
Sulejmani was found guilty of kidnapping Ilko Trajcevski, his son Vasko and his two friends Bobi Jakimovski and Gjoko Sinadinovski, all ethnic Macedonians, from a family house in the Tetovo suburb of Drenovec in 2001. The four men are still missing.
According to the verdict, Sulejmani along with other masked National Liberation Army, NLA, members armed with automatic weapons, first ill-treated the four in the house and then took them to the local rebel headquarters after which all trace of them disappears.
Sulejmani who spent over 4 years in prison was hoping to be released soon after in July last year the ruling coalition voted to abandon four war-crimes cases related to the 2001 armed conflict.
The controversial move in the parliament also included the amnesty for the so-called case of kidnapped Macedonians that charged former insurgents with the alleged kidnapping and murder of 12 ethnic Macedonian civilians.
Sulejmani is one of only few former insurgents that ended up in prison after the signing of the Ohrid peace accord which in 2001 restored peace in the country.
The accord granted greater rights to the Albanian minority that make up one quarter of the population. In exchange the insurgents disbanded and their leaders later formed the Democratic Party for Integration, a political party that is part of the government.