News 12 Jul 13

Kosovo Jails Macedonia Mass Murder Suspects

Two ethnic Albanians wanted in Skopje over five killings which raised ethnic tensions in Macedonia have been jailed for a total of four years and six months for illegal weapons possession.

Edona Peci

The two men, Afrim Ismailovic and Alil Demiri were convicted of illegally possessing and carrying weapons and jailed by the Pristina court on Friday despite the fact that Macedonia wants them to be extradited to Skopje to face terrorism charges over the high-profile killings.

Ismailovic, who had pleaded guilty, was sentenced to two years in jail, while Demiri was sentenced to two years and six months.

“This will include the time they spent in detention on remand since they were arrested in March 3 this year,” judge Hava Haliti said when announcing the verdict.

Their defence lawyers had claimed in mitigation that they were afraid of being captured by the Macedonian security services.

During the men’s arrest, Kosovo police said they confiscated an automatic gun, a pistol, two hand grenades and 31 bullets.

“They [Ismailovic and Demiri] bought the arms, found in the last apartment where they lived, for any eventuality because they understood they could be in danger [of being targeted] by the [Macedonian] secret service,” the indictment said.

The men can appeal against the verdict over the next 15 days.

Four other ethnic Albanians are already on trial in Skopje on terrorism charges over the killings near the Macedonian capital in April 2012 – known locally as the ‘Monster’ case. All have pleaded not guilty.

Macedonia has sent an extradition request to Kosovo in the hope of also prosecuting Demiri and Ismailovic, who have been on the run since the trial in Skopje began last December.

The four men on trial were held when police arrested 20 allegedly radical Muslims during an operation last May in several villages around the capital.

The bodies of Filip Slavkovski, Aleksandar Nakjevski, Cvetanco Acevski and Kire Trickovski, all aged between 18 and 20, had been discovered on April 12 last year.

Their corpses had been lined up and they appeared to have been executed. The body of 45-year-old Borce Stevkovski was found a short distance away from the rest.

News of the murder raised ethnic tensions after groups of ethnic Macedonians staged protests, which in some cases turned violent, blaming the killings on members of the country’s large Albanian community.

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