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News 10 Sep 14

Macedonia to Jail Militants as More Die in Syria

Another ethnic Albanian from Macedonia was reported killed in Syria this week, as Skopje stepped up sentences for its citizens caught fighting alongside foreign paramilitary organisations.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Twenty-three-year-old Xhelal Samakova from Skopje has reportedly been killed while fighting in Syria, increasing the number of Macedonian citizens who have died in the violence there to at least ten, Albanian-language media have reported.

He was fighting with a rebel group against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Our brother Xehlal died as a martyr. Allah accepted him as martyr and he will unite us in heaven,” the web page of the Syrian rebels was cited as saying.

In late August another Macedonian citizen, Burhan Beslimi, also from Skopje, was reported killed there.

The news of the latest death came after parliament last week rushed through amendments to the criminal law to bring in jail sentences for Macedonians fighting with paramilitary organizsations abroad.

The bill envisages a minimum jail of five years if a person is caught participating in a foreign paramilitary group. The same minimum sentence is envisaged for those found guilty of indirect support of such actions.

Those found soliciting and recruiting militants will have to serve a minimum of four years in jail.

“All acts that will threaten global and national security will be sanctioned by jail. The sanctions are harsh enough to clearly send the message that we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour,” Macedonian police minister Gordana Jankuloska told parliament last week.

Former Macedonian intelligence Chief Vladimir Pivovarov says that jailing militants is the least the country can to do protect itself.

“These sentences are mild, considering the severity of the situation,” Pivovarov said.  

He argued that those who fought alongside militant groups abroad should be banned from returning to Macedonia.

"This measure makes sense because even if these people are discovered and jailed, I personally do not believe that the jail will make them loyal to the country again," he said.

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