Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ethnic Albanians urge release of Gnjilane Group

5/11/2013 6:36:00 PM

PRESEVO - A protest was staged by ethnic Albanians at the central square in Presevo, southern Serbia, on Saturday, urging the release of the arrested members of Gnjilane Group and a solution to the problems that this national minority in southern Serbia is facing.

  The rally was organized by Albanian political parties in southern Serbia - the Democratic Party of Albanians, the Movement for Democratic Progress, the Democratic Revival, the Democratic Union of the Valley, Nagip Arifi's Democratic Party, the Democratic Union of Albanians and Riza Halimi's Party for Democratic Action. The protest was addressed by the party leaders, who called for the release of ethnic Albanians of Gnjilane Group who took part in the armed conflicts in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, and were arrested in 2008. 

 The party leaders said that they want to send a public message that nine people were arrested although innocent as there was no evidence that they committed crimes in Gnjilane, eastern Kosovo, in 1999. They called for the reestablishment of a memorial in central Presevo to ethnic Albanians who were killed in the 2001 armed uprising in southern Serbia, and the resolution of the problems of this ethnic minority in southern Serbia in the same way as the ones of Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija. On May 13, the War Crimes Department of Belgrade's Higher Court will deliver a second-instance ruling in the case of Gnjilane Group of the so-called Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac. According to the first-instance ruling delivered by the Higher Court in 2011, 10 persons were sentenced to a total of 101 years in prison for the death of at least 32 Serbs and non-Albanians, setting 153 houses on fire, torture, rape and other crimes. 

 Presevo Mayor Ragmi Mustafa told reporters after the rally that at an irregular session on Friday the Municipal Assembly unanimously adopted a letter of protest which will be delivered to the Serbian government, international organizations in Belgrade and Belgrade's Appellate Court urging a release of the Gnjilane Group members. He said that the letter also points to the dissatisfaction with the talks between the Serbian government representatives and ethnic Albanians from Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja up to date.

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