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Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Some 2,000 people participated in a protest march dubbed "For Justice", organised by several Albanian civil society groups, in downtown Skopje on Monday. The protest passed off peacefully, with obvious heavy police presence visible in the downtown area. Protestors demanded the immediate release of those convicted in the so-called Brodec and Sopot cases, in which ethnic Albanians were found guilty for staging or helping terrorist activities. The protestors also demanded that all cases against ethnic Albanians involved in the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia be scrapped and that all state funded project which promote ethnic and religious discrimination be stopped. The crowd shouted "liberate the political prisoners" as they marched in front of the Skopje court building. Later the protesters moved in front of the parliament and government buildings, causing traffic jams in the downtown area. In 2001 Macedonia suffered a short lived armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the state security forces. Although the clashes ended the same year with the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord and the pronouncement of amnesty for all insurgents, the situation in some areas remained problematic for some time following the signing of the accord.

Two years after the conflict, a mine killed two international KFOR soldiers near the wetern village of Sopot. 11 residents from Sopot were later convicted and given a joint prison sentence of 156 years for their participation in the incident. In the Sopot case the ombudsman’s office and former Macedonia prime minister Vlado Buckovski asked for the case to be reviewed, expressing their concern that the convicted might not be guilty. In a separate case in November 2007 Macedonian police raided the village of Brodec on the Sara Mountain in northwestern Macedonia, killing several armed men and apprehending several others. The court later found the men guilty for planning terrorist activities and sent them to prison. The protestors, marching under the umbrella of the so-called Council of Albanian Organisations, demanded that the government put a halt to the state funded revamp project for the capital, dubbed “Skopje 2014”, claiming that it stirred ethnic division by promoting values that are close only to the Macedonian majority. The ongoing project envisages the construction of at least 10 new buildings and at least 17 vast monuments depicting heroes and historical moments from Macedonian history. The organisers of the protest insisted that they had no political support for their activities. However, the opposition ethnic Albanian party New Democracy previously supported the march, while the ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI said it would not support it. The opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA did not comment on the event.

Balkan Insight