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Witnesses Recount Ljuboten Raid

Ethnic Albanian couple recall Macedonian police attack on their village.
By Sara Goodman
The parents of a man killed when Macedonian police stormed into their home were the first witnesses to testify in the case against the country’s former interior minister and his ex-bodyguard.

Zenap and Elmaz Jusufi told the Hague tribunal separately this week that their son Rami Jusufi was killed on August 12, 2001 when the police attacked the village of Ljuboten.

Ljube Boskoski and Johan Tarculovski are indicted for their alleged role in the attack, during which seven ethnic Albanian men died, 14 houses were intentionally destroyed and more than 100 men were detained and abused.

Boskoski is accused of knowing about the attack and failing to take appropriate measures to punish the perpetrators. Tarculovski is charged with organising and leading the assault.

The court heard this week that both parents were in the house with their son Rami at the time of the attack. Elmaz said her son was in bed when the door “exploded” and the police entered the yard, firing shots in the air.

When he tried to close the door, Rami was hit by a round of bullets and fell to the ground, his father recalled. Elmaz said the bullets were like “hail” in the corridor of the house.

Zenap tried to clean the blood from Rami’s wounds but fainted when she realised he was dead.

After the shooting, Elmaz said the police came into the house and kicked the door open “very strongly”. They also burnt a car sitting in the front yard.

In her cross-examination, Boskoski’s lawyer Edina Residovic pointed to statements Elmaz gave earlier to prosecution investigators and media agencies contradicting his testimony this week. They included details such as the time of the incident, the place where Rami stood when he was wounded and the number of police vehicles Elmaz saw from his courtyard.

Elmaz admitted he spoke to a number of organisations, including the AP, Human Rights Watch and IWPR. He added that while their reports were partly true, his words were also often misinterpreted or distorted.

Residovic also claimed that because of its strategic position, Ljuboten served as a base for the National Liberation Army, NLA, an armed group fighting for greater rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia.

Elmaz denied this, saying he spoke for the entire village when he said the people there were “agricultural and hardworking” and had “no stake in the fight”.

“If they did, they would have left the village to go to Skopje or Kosovo,” he told the court.

The August 12 attack on Ljuboten seems to have been in response to a landmine that killed eight Macedonian soldiers the day before.

Elmaz said he had heard about the landmine, but agreed with Residovic’s statement that he had no way of knowing if people from Ljuboten had placed the mine or if those who had placed it were hiding in the village.

The explosion and the attack on the village that ensued came at a time when Macedonia was involved in a near civil war, with ethnic Albanians fighting ethnic Macedonians.

The conflict, which lasted approximately six months, came to an end with a negotiated peace agreement led by the international community that gave ethnic Albanians greater local autonomy.

Boskoski and Tarculovski are accused of “murder, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages and cruel treatment” during the Ljuboten attack.

They were the last two men to be indicted by the tribunal over war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and this is the only case from the Macedonian conflict before the tribunal.

Four other Macedonian cases investigated by prosecutors – all involving crimes allegedly committed by Albanians – were sent back to Macedonia to be tried in national courts.

The case will continue next week.

Sara Goodman is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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