Macedonia: Albanian Muslims Riot After 6 of Them Are Sentenced For Killing 5 Christians

As always, the terror comes from the mosque. After Friday prayers, as usual:

“No Muslim must be punished for killing a kafir”

Several thousand protesters Koranimals clashed with police in Skopje at a rally against the jailing of alleged extremist ethnic Albanian Muslims for the terrorist murders of ethnic Macedonians.

Police and protesters in Cair | Photo: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Several thousand young ethnic Albanians angered by the terrorism convictions fought running battles with riot police who used tear gas, water cannon, stun grenades and pepper spray in an attempt to quell the unrest in the capital on Friday.

Protesters carried banners saying “We are not terrorists” and “We want justice”, and chanted slogans accusing Police Minister Gordana Jankuloska of being the real terrorist and calling for a “Greater Albania” state.

The demonstrators threw stones outside the main court house, but police cordoned off roads to stop them reaching the government building and forced them back into the Albanian-dominated Cair municipality, where sporadic clashes continued into the afternoon as police cleared the main boulevard.

BIRN witnessed at least ten arrests and saw ten injured police officers and protesters, while blood from injuries could be seen on the streets leading from the city centre to Cair. There were also unconfirmed reports of gunshots fired.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

People had been urged via social networks and anonymously-published leaflets to gather in front of the Jaja Pasha mosque in Skopje’s Albanian-dominated municipality of Cair after midday prayers and head towards the centre of the city to protest “against politically-motivated court cases”.

In a case that raised ethnic tensions in the country, the Skopje Criminal Court on Monday jailed six alleged Albanian radicals for life for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians at Orthodox Easter in 2012.

The court gave the longest possible sentence for terrorism offences to Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were found guilty.

Meanwhile, the state prosecution told media it will appeal against the release of the seventh defendant, Sejdi Rama, who was acquitted on the basis of lack of evidence.

Rama, who was freed after spending more than two years in detention, said he was still in shock.

“I still cannot get hold of myself because I still feel like I am in jail,” he told media after his release on Wednesday.

“The charges against me were very serious. I managed to prove my innocence after 26 months but there are more innocent people still in jail and I hope that one day they too will be able to do the same,” he said.

There has been silence about the planned protest from top politicians, but informed source from the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, the biggest ethnic Albanian party in the country, told BIRN under condition of anonymity that the “disappointment among Albanians [about the verdict] is great and we should be very careful so that things don’t get out of control”.

Civil – Centre for Freedom, an NGO from Skopje, appealed for restraint both from the protesters and the police.

“In light of the announced protest, we call for calm, understanding and respect for the right of protest”, said Xhabir Deralla, the head of Civil.

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.

The protest comes amid still fresh memory from last year’s two days of violent, ethnically-charged protests that gripped the capital, sparked by the controversial appointment of an Albanian ex-guerrilla Talat Xhaferi as defence minister.

In 2001, Macedonia went through a brief armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that increased Albanian rights.

Albanians make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.