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The trial of the Macedonian policeman who shot dead two young Albanians in February, causing ethnic uproar in the country, was delayed on Friday for “security reasons”.
Pictures of the killed were displayed at the Gostivar protest in February
The trial of the policeman at the centre of the case has been delayed after the prison in Prilep refused to bring the ethnic Macedonian detainee, Jakim Trifunovski, 39, to trial in Albanian dominated Gostivar, where the murder took place.
“The court received a letter from the prison saying that they will not bring the suspect to trial for security reasons,” Kjirko Mihajloski, head of the Gostivar district court, told Balkan Insight.
He said that the judge in charge of the case will later decide further steps and investigate the security threat.
The prison in Prilep refused to elaborate to Balkan Insight on what the threats were.
Meanwhile, Trifunovski’s defence in the Gostivar court demanded that the trial be moved to Prilep, arguing that it would be a less risky enviroment. The Supreme Court will decide on this request.
Trifunovski, a police officer from Gostivar, shot dead two ethnic Albanians in the town in unexplained circumstances while off duty.
Some said the dispute had erupted over a parking space while others claimed that the victims, Imran Mehmet, 29, and Besnik Shehapi, 26, were neighbours of his with whom he had previously quarrelled.
Police initially said Trifunovski fired his gun in self-defence. They said he was first attacked while parking his car outside his home in the presence of his young daughter.
But local Albanians said the killing was plain murder and accused the police of trying to cover it up.
In a protest held that month, some 10,000 ethnic Albanians gathered in Gostivar to express their anger over the murder. Some of the protestors turned violent, breaking public property and attacking shops owned by Macedonians.
The killing contributed to a spree of inter-ethnic gang violence in March, the worst since the country narrowly avoided all-out civil war in 2001.
Gangs vandalized buses and beat up citizens at random on the streets of the capital, Skopje, and in other places.
Ethnic Albanians used social networks to call for renewed protests on Friday in front of the court in Gostivar. However, in the absence of the defendant, few people turned out.
Fearing retaliation, the family of the defendant fled the town shortly after the incident took place.
Macedonian police told a parliamentary commission on Friday that they know the identities of the suspects behind a spate of violent, ethnic-related incidents on Skopje buses.
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