News 30 Jan 13

Kosovo Arrests Five for Serb Grave Desecrations

Kosovo police detained five youths on suspicion of vandalising Serbian Orthodox graves in the town of Vitia/Vitina - four of them under the age of 18.

Edona Peci

“After the arrested were interviewed at the police station, the prosecution sent all the information to the court because there were suspicions about their involvement in the grave demolitions,” Ismet Hasani, spokesperson at Kosovo police's regional headquarters in the town of Gjilane, told BIRN.

“One of the arrested is an adult, while the other four are under the age of 18,” he said.

After being detained and questioned on Wednesday, all five young males were released again ahead of their trial.

More than 60 Serbian Orthodox graves have been demolished over the past two weeks in apparent retaliation for Belgrade’s forcible removal of a monument to ethnic Albanian fighters in the south Serbia town of Presevo on January 20.

The director of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Aleksandar Vulin, visited one of the cemeteries where graves were desecrated in the village of Klokot on Wednesday.

 “I came here to express my condolences over the destruction of the memorials to your dearest,” Vulin told Klokot residents, local radio reported.

“We want to know who the perpetrators are and for this to never happen again,” he said.

Vulin said that the attacks were another example of discrimination against Serbs in Kosovo.

“This is also a test for the international community to see whether it is ready to support this apartheid against Serbs,” he said.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has condemned the vandalism, calling it “embarrassing, despicable and unacceptable”, while the Kosovo government decided on Wednesday to allocate 97,000 euro to repair the damaged gravestones.

Three other people have already been detained and five police officers suspended over the demolition of a World War II memorial in Vitia/Vitina last week.

The controversial monument in Presevo commemorated guerrillas who died in an attempt to unite parts of southern Serbia with Kosovo during a brief conflict with government forces in 2000 and was considered by Belgrade to be an incitement to separatism.

Several thousand people joined a rally in Pristina on January 26 to protest against the monument’s removal, which has also drawn condemnation from Albania’s leadership.

Thaci has accused his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic of raising tensions by taking down the memorial, saying that “his intention was to provoke reactions in Kosovo”.

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