News 27 Oct 14

Macedonia PM Won’t Call FBI into Terror Case

The Macedonian prime minister said it was not his decision whether to ask the US FBI to oversee a possible new probe of the controversial terrorism convictions of six Albanians.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski | Photo: gov.mk

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said on Sunday that only the country’s appeals court could make the decision whether to ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to become involved in any investigation of the disputed convictions in the multiple murder case that sparked ethnic unrest in Macedonia.

Gruevski said the appeals court must decide because the defence is contesting the terrorism convictions of the six ethnic Albanians.

"This is the job of the court, in this case of the appeals court. Only it can decide whether to invite someone else, and the party that will be called will have to decide whether it accepts," he told media.

The call for FBI to become involved came from Gruevski's government partner, the ethnic Albanian junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

Earlier this month DUI said FBI’s involvement in a possible renewed investigation would instil much-needed public trust in the ethnically-charged case which sparked mass protests after the six Albanians were jailed for life for the murder of five ethnic Macedonians.

After the DUI leadership said it had raised the idea at meetings with US representatives, experts pointed out that for such a move to be even considered, the government and not a political party should file such a request to Washington.

"A single political party cannot act on behalf of the entire government... the DUI must have a legal department and must know that such a thing is impossible," Vladimir Pivovoarov, a professor at the Skopje Faculty of Security, told BIRN.

Government spokesperson Aleksandar Gjorgiev has confirmed that the issue has been raised between the coalition partners, Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE and the DUI, but gave no further information.

Confirmation that the DUI has been raising the issue came from the US embassy in Skopje as well. But “the embassy has not received a formal request from the government for this kind of support”, it told BIRN.

DUI has demanded a “transparent retrial” immediately after the convictions of the six Albanian Muslims for the 2012 killings that raised ethnic tensions.

Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were found guilty of terrorism in connection with the killings. Two of the men who were convicted, Demiri and Afrim Ismailovic, are serving prison sentences in Kosovo for other offences and were tried in absentia.

The verdicts provoked regular protests by Albanians in front of the court who insisted the case was staged by the government led by Nikola Gruevski and was unjustly portraying Albanians as radicals and terrorists. Smaller protests were held in other Macedonian towns and in neighbouring Kosovo and Albania.

One of the protests in Skopje ended in mass violence when several thousand people charged the court and were later pushed back by heavily-armed riot police.

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.

The FBI investigates large-scale crime cases but also serves as an intelligence service, and has already been involved in investigations in several countries in the Balkans.

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