News 01 Jul 14

Macedonia Albanian Activists Slam ‘Terrorism’ Murder Verdict

An ethnic Albanian NGO said that the terrorism convictions of six alleged Islamic extremists over the killings of five ethnic Macedonians in Skopje was a political set-up.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The NGO called Wake Up condemned the court’s verdicts on Tuesday, insisting that the convictions of the six ethnic Albanians were politically motivated and had left the real perpetrators of the gruesome murders in 2012 unpunished.

Police on standby near the court before the verdict.

“The conclusion of this case was sealed from the very beginning when the suspects were labelled as terrorists even before the start of the investigation,” the NGO said in a press release on Tuesday.

The Skopje Criminal Court on Monday found Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta guilty on Monday of killing the five Macedonians at Orthodox Easter in 2012 and gave them the longest possible sentence for terrorism offences, life in prison.

The court said that the murder was planned and carried out in a “vicious manner” in order to provoke inter-ethnic turmoil between Macedonians and Albanians.

On account of lack of evidence, the court acquitted a seventh man, Rami Sejdi, who was initially charged with helping the group commit the murders.

Wake Up said however that the sentences were absurd in a case in which the murder weapon has not been found and where the exact motive for the killings remains vague.

“These circumstances create the maximum amount of doubt about the credibility of the court, the prosecution and the entire judicial system in the country,” the NGO said.

Police Minister Gordana Jankuloska declined to comment on the outcome of the case on Tuesday but said that “the court should not be subjected to pressure regarding the verdict".

News of the murders in 2012 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.

But the verdict has so far been greeted calmly, although police are still deployed near the court and in the centre of the capital in case of protests.

Relatives of the convicted men have said they will decide in the coming days whether they will call for a protest.

The verdict is not yet final as the defendants have the right to appeal to a higher court.

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.

Albanians make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.

In 2001, Macedonia went through a brief armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that increased Albanian rights.

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