News 11 Apr 13

Macedonia Stages Hero’s Welcome for Tarculovski

Thousands turned out to welcome policeman Johan Tarculovski, the only Macedonian convicted of war crimes by the Hague, who was feted at a government-funded celebration on his return to Skopje.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
PM Nikola Gruevski and Johan Tarculovski | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Police officer Tarculovski, who served his war crimes sentence in a German prison but was recently granted early release by the Hague Tribunal, arrived at Skopje airport on Thursday where he was greeted by several thousand supporters and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

Upon arrival, police minister Gordana Jankulovska personally handed him his new Macedonian passport, then he proceeded to a stage where he was given a euphoric welcome by the crowd.

“It has been hard being so far away but your support meant everything to me,” Tarculovski told them, adding that there was no sacrifice he would not endure for Macedonia.

After visiting the government building with Gruevski, Tarculovski laid flowers at a memorial dedicated to the soldiers and policemen killed during Macedonia’s conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels in 2001, during which he committed the crimes which led to his Hague conviction.

Tarculovski then went on to the celebration in the main square in Skopje followed by several thousand supporters, where he gave a speech thanking Gruevski for his support and calling on people to “unite around the idea of a prosperous and strong Macedonia”

“Macedonia, as always, is faced with many challenges. We should be wise and brave to overcome all the challenges and do the best for our country... If we do that, even God will be with us,” he said.

The Association of Tarculovski’s Supporters had laid on buses to bring people to the airport and to the celebration.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

But although the association was formally the organiser of the event, the government provided most of the money and the logistics for the show.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, convicted the former police officer of committing war crimes during the 2001 conflict.

He was found guilty of leading a police unit that killed Albanian civilians and committed other atrocities in the village of Ljuboten, near Skopje.

The ICTY announced on Monday that Tarculovski would be freed after serving eight years of his 12-year jail term. Last month, after completing two-thirds of his sentence, he had become formally eligible for early release.

Although Tarculovski was convicted of war crimes, some people in Macedonia see him as a national hero, unjustly jailed for defending his country.

Photo by: AP/Filip Grdanoski

 

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

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