North Macedonia: Clashes at protest over terror convictions

At least seven policemen have been injured during clashes in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje after a court this week upheld terrorism-related convictions for ethnic Albanian men accused of murders that inflamed ethnic tensions in the Balkan country

SKOPJE, North Macedonia -- Protesters clashed with police in North Macedonia’s capital Friday after a court this week upheld the terrorism-related convictions of ethnic Albanian men accused of killings nine years ago that inflamed ethnic tensions in the Balkan country.

At least seven policemen were injured, authorities said. The violence broke out when several hundred ethnic Albanian demonstrators — including relatives of the convicted men — tried to march through Skopje to the main court complex to protest the ruling.

Their way was blocked by police cordons, and some protesters attacked officers with stones and plastic bottles before being repelled with stun grenades. No arrests were immediately reported.

Six ethnic Albanian men initially received life sentences for the 2012 murders of five ethnic Macedonian fishermen. In a retrial that concluded this week, the life sentences were upheld for three of the defendants, two had their jail terms reduced to 15 and 9 years, and a sixth man was acquitted.

Only one of the defendants was present at the trial, the others having fled and believed to be hiding in neighboring Kosovo.

Relatives and supporters of the defendants insisted the case had been politically motivated.

Tensions between the Christian Macedonian majority and mostly Muslim ethnic Albanian minority have remained high since a nine-month insurgency in 2001 by ethnic Albanians.