News 09 Jul 14

Retrial Demanded in Macedonia Mass Murder Case

An ethnic Albanian leader in Macedonia urged an internationally monitored retrial of the so-called 'Monster' case after six Albanians were found guilty of terrorism and jailed for life.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Edona Peci
BIRN
Skopje, Pristina

DUI party leader Ali Ahmeti condemned the verdict.

Ali Ahmeti, the head of the junior party in Macedonia's ruling coalition, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, demanded on Tuesday a transparent retrial and a public presentation of the evidence that led to the conviction of six ethnic Albanians for terrorism - a verdict that sparked unrest on the streets of the capital last week.

The statement came a week after a court gave life sentences to six Albanian Muslims for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians in 2012 in a case that raised ethnic tensions.

Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were found guilty of the grave offence of terrorism in connection to the killings. One defendant was acquitted.

Two of the men who were convicted, Alil Demiri and Afrim Ismailovic, are serving prison sentences in Kosovo and were tried in absentia.

Condemning the protests against the verdict in Macedonia over the past few days, Ahmeti said in a statement that there was “a joint responsibility to identify and overcome the efforts at selective justice”.

He said there was a also need to examine the role of “judges and prosecutors who carry out their duties with prejudice” and whose work devaluates faith in justice.

Ahmeti said that any new trial should be closely monitored by Western representatives.

The verdict angered ethnic Albanians, several thousand of whom who took to the streets of Skopje last week, throwing stones and bricks at the Criminal Court building and at riot police, who responded with tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades.

 

A protest in Pristina was organised by the football and basketball fan club 'Plisat' | Photo by: Edona Peci

 

More protests have been announced in Macedonia, while more than 200 protesters took to the streets of Pristina in neighbouring Kosovo on Tuesday in support of the convicted men.

Holding posters with slogans like "Skopje is not alone" and singing nationalist songs, protesters headed towards the Macedonian embassy where they burned the Macedonian flag.

The War Veterans Association in Kosovo echoed Ahmeti's request for a retrial, accusing the authorities in Macedonia of handing out an unjust sentence.

The veterans' organisation said the verdict proved that “the repression of Albanians continues even in the 21st century and has culminated with the ‘Monster’ trial in which Albanians were given life sentences without any proof [of guilt]”.

“As war veterans we express our readiness to help our brothers in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia... with whatever they need in order to bring an end once and for all to Slavic repression,” it said in a statement.

The association also urged the Kosovo government to not extradite the two Albanians convicted of terrorism in absentia to Macedonia.

Meanwhile, the situation in Macedonia itself on Tuesday remained calm, despite renewed calls for protests.

The Macedonian embassy in Tirana, Albania, also said that no protests took place in Tirana, although some groups had called for people to take to the streets.

In 2001, armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces erupted in Macedonia. It ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that increased Albanian rights. Ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1 million population.

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