News 18 Jan 13

Macedonia Mass Murder Trial Witnesses ‘Saw Gunmen’

Witnesses in the politically-charged case known as ‘Monster’ recalled hearing late-night shooting but could not identify the defendants as the gunmen.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

The lake near Skopje where the murder took place | Photo by: AP/Boris Grdanoski

The three fishermen who testified told the court hat they were near the murder site at the Smiljkovsko Lake on the night of April 12, 2012, when five people were killed.

They said they saw armed men approaching them.

“When it started to get dark, we headed home… A man appeared dressed in black, [wearing a] bullet vest and [holding] a gun in his hands. He asked us our names and told us to run or he would kill us,” Ahmet Bekir testified.

Another fisherman, Kemal Nesim told the court that while they were running, he heard gunshots coming from the lake.

The prosecution claims that the killings were a terrorist act intended to provoke ethnic turmoil and the case has raised tensions in the country.

So far, four of the six defendants, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Rami Sejdi and Haki Aziri, have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.

They were held when police arrested 20 allegedly radical Muslims during an operationlast May in several villages around the capital.

The two other suspects, Alil Demiri and Afrim Ismailovic, remain at large.

When discovered, the bodies of Filip Slavkovski, Aleksandar Nakjevski, Cvetanco Acevski and Kire Trickovski, all aged between 18 and 20, were laid out in a line and appeared to have been executed.

The body of 44-year-old Borce Stevkovski was found a short distance from the others.

The fishermen said they saw other armed men at the site but failed to recognise any of the four defendants in the courtroom.

Groups of ethnic Macedonians have staged protests over the murders, some of them violent, blaming the killings on members of the country’s large ethnic Albanian community.

In 2001, there were violent clashes between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels which ended with the signing of the Ohrid peace accord that granted more rights to Albanians.

The trial is due to continue in February.

 

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