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News 29 Jan 13

Thousands in Kosovo Protest Decani Ruling

Some 2,000 locals living near the famous Serbian Orthodox monastery in western Kosovo protested against a court decision which they said unfairly favoured the monastery.

Edona Peci

Thousands of locals in Decani in western Kosovo on Monday attended a protest against a Supreme Court decision on land ownership, which pitted the famous nearby Serbian Orthodox monastery against two socially owned enterprises.

On December 28, the court rejected the claims of the two firms, Apliko and Iliria, against the monastery, one of the best known medieval Serbian heritage sites in Kosovo - but one now sitting in solidly ethnic Albanian territory.

The cases, according to the EU's law and order mission in Kosovo, EULEX, relate to donations made by the Serbian government to Decani Monastery in 1997 during the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

The companies had been challenging the legality of the donations, claiming ownership rights over the properties in question.

Protesters called the verdict “discriminatory” and said it was political influenced. Adem Lushaj, one of the organizers, said the court had “become a victim of political pressure”.

He also called on the US embassy to “stop this situation and not allow further provocations” to local people.

Police in the Peja region said about 2,000 people participated in the protest, which ended without incident.

Apiko and Iliria had initially filed claims with the Municipal Court in Pec and in Decani in 2000.

Monday’s protest is the second organized by locals in Decani, who have stressed that they will continue protesting against the ruling.

Samuel Žbogar, the EU Special Representative to Kosovo, urged all parties involved “to demonstrate respect for the rule of law and proper legal process”.

Decani was founded in 1327 and houses the grave of its founder King, Stefan Uros "Decanski".

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