News 03 Oct 17

Prosecutor Calls for Retrial in Skopje Mass Murder Case

In an unexpected development, Macedonia’s provisional chief prosecutor advised the Supreme Court to scrap life sentences given to six alleged ethnic Albanian Muslim extremists for the killings of five ethnic Macedonians.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
The crime scene near Skopje. Archive photo: MIA.

At Tuesday’s hearing at the Supreme Court, provisional chief prosecutor Liljana Spasovska advised that the life sentences should be scrapped and called for a retrial in the case which raised ethnic tensions in the country.

In her address to the Supreme Court, Spasovska said that there were new circumstances regarding the case, in which the six defendants were convicted of the gruesome killings of five ethnic Macedonians near Skopje at Orthodox Easter in 2012.

Spasovska said that the credibility of some of the forensic materials and of the evidence that was brought before the court is now being questioned.

She also said that the defendants’ right to a fair trial was jeopardised during the trial.

Her announcement sparked a strong emotional reaction and tears from some of the defendants’ relatives who were present in the courtroom.

However, the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the case, is not obliged to follow the prosecutor’s recommendation.

In June 2014, the Skopje Criminal Court found Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta, guilty of killing the five ethnic Macedonians in 2012.

They were given the longest possible sentence for terrorism offences, life in prison. They have since appealed against the verdict in higher courts.

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.

News of the murder 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.

However many ethnic Albanians and others believed that the defendants might have been scapegoats, and that the previous government led by the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party might have been involved in an attempt to show that state institutions could clear up the case efficiently.

Spasovska assumed the post of provisional chief prosecutor after longstanding prosecution chief Marko Zvrlevski, who was widely accused of being too close to the former ruling party, was dismissed in August after the VMRO DPMNE lost power.

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