news 30 May 14

Life Sentences Urged in Macedonia Mass Murder Trial

The prosecutor demanded long jail terms for a group of alleged Albanian extremists accused of killing five Macedonians near Skopje in 2012 - a case that sparked ethnic tensions.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
The defendants in court.

Prosecutor Gordana Geskovska told the Skopje court in her closing arguments on Friday that the murder of five ethnic Macedonians by a group of alleged Albanian extremists during Orthodox Easter in 2012 was an act of terror carried out in order to provoke ethnic strife.

Geskovska claimed that message delivered by the killers was: “We shoot on Maundy Thursday so that you will have a bloody Easter. We shoot at young males in order to destroy your faith and nation and the future of the country.”

She said that there was abundant evidence proving the defendants’ guilt, including traces of their car near the scene of the murder, transcripts from their cell phone conversations, testimony from protected witnesses and files on their computers that had references to radical Islam.

Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Rami Sejdi, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta are on trial for alleged terrorism in Skopje. Two other suspects in the case, Alil Demiri and Afrim Ismailovic are trialed in absentia as they are in prison in Kosovo where they serve sentences for illegal possession of weapons.

According to the charges, Alil Demiri and Afrim Ismailovic committed the murders with automatic rifles, while the others provided logistical support.

“The defendants deny the murder but none of them sent condolences for it. It is too late for that now,” Geskovska said.

The corpses of Filip Slavkovski, Aleksandar Nakjevski, Cvetanco Acevski and Kire Trickovski, all aged between 18 and 20, were discovered on April 12, 2012. Their bodies had been lined up and appeared to have been executed.

The body of 45-year-old Borce Stevkovski was found a short distance away from the others.

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

In May 2012, police arrested 20 allegedly radical Muslims, including four of the defendants, in an operation in several villages around the capital. Most of them were subsequently released, apart from the four defendants. Sami Ljuta was arrested later, in 2013.

In 2001 Macedonia went through a short but violent conflict between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels, which ended with the signing of a peace accord that granted more rights to Albanians.

The defence will deliver its closing arguments next month.

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