Several thousand Muslim protesters clashed with police in Skopje at a rally against the jailing of six convicted ethnic Albanian Muslims for the ‘terrorist’ murders of ethnic Macedonians. (Is there any place on earth where Muslims DON’T cause trouble?)
BalkanInSight (h/t Alex A) 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.Ethnic Albanian Muslims 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.
Police said 20 policemen and several protesters were injured in the clashes, which followed Friday prayers at a mosque. Six people were detained on suspicion of taking part in the clashes.
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.
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 (Muslims) don’t get out of control”.
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. Albanian Muslims make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.