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Macedonia Protests Pass Off Without Bloodshed

May 11, 2012

Ethnic Albanians protests against police arrests of suspects wanted in connection to the recent killings in Skopje were marred by vandalism but did not result in major incidents.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 11.05.2012

 

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Some 10,000 mainly young Albanians gathered in front of Skopje’s Jaja-Pasha Mosque after the midday prayer in the Albanian dominated municipality of Cair to express anger over the arrests.

The crowd later moved to the centre of the city, stopping before the Skopje court building and the government.

Some protesters threw stones at the court and the government building and broke  windows. A bus stop near the government was vandalised.

Two cameramen and several policemen were reported to have been attacked in front of the government before the protests ended.

After the crowd retreated back to Cair, the police stopped some of the protestors from moving towards the Cair municipal building. The headquarters of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, which is part of the government, was also stoned.

Protestors shouted “Allah is Great”, “Gruevski (the Prime Minister) is a terrorist!” and “UCK” (an Albanian guerrilla army that fought in Kosovo and Macedonia). In front of the government building, the crowd shouted “Murderers!”

Rexhepi Skender, one of the organisers, told Balkan Insight that the protesters were “ordinary people who have no other way to express their revolt.”

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

“We just want to express our revulsion about the way the arrested people and detained women were treated.”

The organizers distributed flyers saying: “We share the pain of the members of the victims families and we demand the killers are brought to justice. We protest against the insults of the government against all of its Muslim citizens and its attempt to stage a political process.”

“We are appalled by the Albanian partner in the government (the Democratic Union for Integration) that is legitimizing the insults of this government against its own people.”

The protesters called on the EU, the US, the OSCE, Turkey, Albania and Kosovo to form an independent commission of international experts that would shed light on the arrests made for the killing of the five ethnic Macedonians.

Significantly smaller rallies were held in the towns of Tetovo and Kumanovo.

In Gostivar, despite previous announcements on Tweeter and Facebook, there were no rallies.

Some media reported that the Islamic Religious Community, IVZ had contributed to this by urging believers in mosques to go straight home after prayers.

On April 12 the bodies of Filip Slavkovski, Aleksandar Nakjevski, Cvetanco Acevski and Kire Trickovski, all aged between 18 and 20, were discovered on April 12 near Zelezarsko Ezero on the northern outskirts of the capital, a popular fishing destination.  The body of 45-year-old Borce Stevkovski was a short distance away from the rest.

The murder sharply raised ethnic tensions between Macedonians and country’s largest Albanian minority, as rumours spread that the killers were Albanian.

Police on May 1 arrested 20 ethnic Albanians in an operation in several villages around the capital in relation to the murders. The police filed terrorism and murder charges against five people, three of whom have been arrested.

On May 4 over a thousand ethnic Albanians took to the streets after the midday prayer in Skopje, accusing the authorities of setting up innocent Albanians and unjustly portraying them as terrorists.

Meanwhile Macedonians are drumming up support on social networks for their own protest in front of the government on Saturday “against terrorism” and in support for the police action.

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