Thursday, 14 December 2017 | News today: 14

We are prepared for all challenges

Crime is crime and it can not have any ethnic symbols. Murderers are murderers, regardless of their ethnicity. Unscrupulous liquidation of the boys cannot and must not be observed through the prism of ethnicity. The monsters who committed such act must be dealt with in the favor of all citizens in the country

After last week’s acts of violence at Bit Pazar, Minister of Interior Gordana Jankuloska reassures policemen have enough experience in dealing with such situations and are prepared to protect the court from feeling directly exposed. Jankuloska believes all hooligans will be taken before institutions of justice and she explains target of the police are solely violent perpetrators who attacked police officers and journalist teams. At the same time, Minister Jankuloska appeals to all citizens to avoid being seduced by scenarios that might cause religious incidents.

Over 20 policemen were injured at Friday’s protests in Skopje and Tetovo. Protesters were quite aggressive, while all protest observers got the impression the police had restrained itself from more energetic actions. Was that just a tactics by the MoI while cracking down the protest  to avoid provoking bigger riot and casualties?

Jankuloska: I would not want to comment on the impressions since everyone has their own perspective and not everyone has all the relevant information on the overall situation. The Ministry must have all the information, to make analysis and than, based on argumentation, experts can decide on further actions. It is a fact that there have also been opposite comments on last Friday’s events, namely that the police was accused of using excessive force. Some journalists, defending the violent perpetrators, went as far as comparing the Court building demolition and injuring policemen with the events in Gjorce Petrov, accusing us of excessive brutality. I can only stated that both in Gjorce as well as now, our response was professional and proportional with the threats. The police has strength, capacity and expertise to deal with much greater disorders and far more serious situations. Our primary goal was to establish public order, which we succeeded it. Our secondary goal was sanctioning of aggressive vandals  and hooligans who were demolishing the city center. 34 persons have been identified thus far, six of whom ended up in detention. We continue identifying the remaining ones. They will all be taken before the institutions of justice.

Calls for protests were anonymous, via social networks, unreported to the police, and the groups were, obviously, well organized and prepared for clashes with the police. Do you have any information on who is behind the protests? Do you have any information that foreign services or organizations are part of the events related to the “Monster” case? The way they were organized does not seem to be spontaneous or accidental, but orchestrated by a central point.

Jankuloska: Operative information is one thing, while evidence on criminal and legal persecution is completely different thing. We monitor the situation and we are prepared to react accordingly at any instant. The right to public gathering in the Republic of Macedonia is guaranteed by the Constitution. We might not even like the legal provision which stipulates the gathering must be previously reported, but we must respect it. Regardless of to what extent the protest reason was irrational, I would not like to put all participants in one bucket. There were also citizens who did not cause any incidents. We target the participants who attacked the police and the journalist teams. The police is already familiar with many of them and I expect for them to confess to the court whether they participated in the violence organization process or were forced or deluded, actually, to point out who was the organizer. The majority of the violent persons were young people who had prior issues with the law. It is evident they do not have enough knowledge in law or the way the system functions. It is even more evident they neither had, nor are interested to have any insight in the material evidence of the “Monster” trial. It will soon be known whether they were manipulated by some of the media or were following somebody’s orders.

Considering that protesters chanted paroles that had no relation to the “Monster” case, but have religious contents, and waved Islamic flags, is it possible that it is all just an overture to more serious, religiously motivated incidents?

Jankuloska: Such conduct is a clear signal that someone is attempting to misuse the monstrous murders of five young men for personal goals. In my personal opinion and according to the opinion of the majority of the Macedonian citizens, even for most of the international public, crime is crime and can not have any ethnic symbols. Murderers are murderers, regardless of their ethnicity. Unscrupulous liquidation of the boys  cannot and must not be observed through the prism of ethnicity. The monsters who committed such act must be dealt with in the favor of all citizens in the country. Unfortunately, this is not the first time in Macedonia when certain topics and matters are being misused to fuel interethnic relations, but we are prepared to secure the rule of law. We appeal to citizens to avoid being seduced by scenarios that might cause religious incidents. They would definitely have no benefits from it.

To what extent is it difficult for the police to deal with such violence, hidden behind alleged dissatisfaction with the court verdict?

Jankuloska: This is not the first time we are witnessing disrespect of the court and judicial decisions. It was evident in the “Tank Parts” case, the “Global” case. Even politicians humiliated the judges and pushed the police in front of the court, trying to impose their own justice. Similar to the “Chairman” case, as well as the protests and reactions regarding the disclosure of the protected witness in the “Orese” case. I am not saying the violent protests for the “Monster” case are in relation to these, but once a practice has been established, it is difficult to change it. Even back than we have been warning on the negative consequences of involving politics in crime and court decisions. The court must remain independent and resist any pressures. We have faced attempts to force a verdict on the streets in the past. We have experience and we are prepared to provide the court safe working atmosphere where it will not feel threatened.

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Who would benefit from deterioration of the interethnic relations in the country? External radical organizations or domestic structures? Or both maybe?

Jankuloska: I would say deterioration of the interethnic relations is in the interest of everyone who means no well to the Republic of Macedonia and its future as EU and NATO member state. Such structures exist both in and outside Macedonia. Some have short-term, lucrative and political motives, while others are led by long-term strategies, whose primary goal is denial of the country. We should not be focused on them. We should be focused on making efforts to discourage those structures. Therefore, further promotion of interenthic relations was a priority point in the new programme of the Government.

Radical Islamic group ISIL threatened recently to attack Balkan countries, as well, including Macedonia. Many domestic and foreign experts warned these structures become increasingly dangerous in this region.

Jankuloska: Republic of Macedonia is part of the global fighting terrorism coalition. We cooperate with our partners and we share all risks arising from our mutual actions. There is practically no country in Europe which has not been a target of terrorist attacks. Great Britain, Spain, France, all the way to Russia. There is no country that has not seen the ugly and dangerous face of terrorism. “Desert Storm” and “Monster” actions were taken to uncover and sanctions terrorism suspects.

Do you have information on how many of the Macedonian citizens who fought in Syria and Iraq have returned to the country, and how many of them have stayed there? How big of a threat are they upon their return?

Jankuloska: Our information is not official, since persons who consider or decide to leave there, do not report it. We only have operative information at our disposal, reached by us or the friendly services. In the past years we had cases when Macedonian citizens would leave to the battle fields, but, according to our information, those were mainly emigrants recruited by larger European centers. Lately, the situation has changed and Macedonian citizens are being recruited by centers in the region, which witnesses the seriousness and expansibility of this phenomenon. If we take all traumas war causes into consideration, radical indoctrination and difficulties when returning to normal life, it is very probable everyone who has returned from the battle field poses potential security threat. Therefore, a law on sanctioning participation of Macedonian citizens in such conflicts is in procedure.

Relatives of the convicted persons are dissatisfied with the verdict, while relatives of the murdered boys request finding out who ordered the monstrous act. Can a complete disclosure of the case be expected and are the allegations of a third persons standing behind these events realistic? We have also heard speculations that current politicians might have been involved.

Jankuloska: I can say this is one of the most difficult cases in terms of police work . We had to engage all available capacities, and, as you know, after a month of intensive 24/7 work of thousands of professionals in the Ministry, starting from operation forces, ending with crime scene technicians, we managed to close the case. From police point of view, the case has been closed. We have found the suspects, provided evidence and submitted it to the competent public prosecutor. The court has taken over the procedure from there. I would not like to comment someone else’s positions, especially if there is no appropriate argumentation.

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A journalist from Albanian medium has complained he was detained and beaten by the police for no reason. No journalist had issues with the police at the last protests, although they were in the first lines, right in front of the protesters, in the so called, dangerous zones. Why was that journalist, who claimed to have been 200 meters away from the incidents, detained?

Jankuloska: Regarding this person, we have already informed that the Sector for Internal Control and Professional Standards has undertaken all measures and actions to investigate the case, immediately after the journalist has published his allegations for physical and psychological torture in the media, instead of reporting the case in accordance with the procedure. In order to check the allegations, a review of all the official materials has been made, and was determined he was detained for suspecting he violated public order by participation in a crowd. A physical force has been utilized during his detention, which is noted in the report. The person had no journalist ID, nor any symbol stating he works for a medium. After being detained, he was taken to Kisela Voda police station. The authority has prepared a detention report, providing the detainee with all his legal rights. The detainee has signed the report, stating he had no remarks in the presence of a lawyer. The person has also signed the report on temporarily confiscated and returned items. A belt, watch, sunglasses and two cell phones. Detention process and case disclosure procedure were conducted in the attendance of three public prosecutors who were giving instructions to the inspectors of the Violent Crimes Unit. After the case has been documented, the detainee has been charged with preventing public officer’s duty by participation in a crowd. Therefore, Sector for Internal Control and Professional Standards has found the allegations in the media groundless. The detainee has been granted all legal detention right and no excessive physical force was applied.

During Friday’s protest anonymous persons threw tear bomb at a group of journalists, while a cameraman suffered physical injuries by a protester. Doe the police have any information on those persons?

Jankuloska: We have information that many journalist teams were injured by the protesters on Friday. Unfortunately, only a few of them have decided to file charges, and the Journalists Association did not condemn the perpetrators. On the opposite, it accused the police of detaining a person with no media symbol or badge who participated in the crowd. Regardless, these vandals are subject to out investigation and we will do everything in our power to bring them to the face of justice to protect the media.

Part of the Albanian media has a remark to the police of using bigger force when Albanians protest, while Macedonian media claim the opposite. Is there a selective approach during police actions in cases of hooligan groups?

Jankuloska: The Ministry of Interior acts professionally and unselective, supported by the fact that many injured police officers are from the ethnic communities. We have never been dividing neither police officers, nor citizens. That is exactly how we will continue to work. Unfortunately, such theories are in somebody’s interest and we see that in some of the media.

During Tetovo incidents, the group that tried to attack DUI’s headquarters was prevented by policemen, mainly Albanians, and they did they job in a professional manner. Are there any threats to those people and the other police members who deal with such incidents?

Jankuloska: The police work itself carries major risk. In the past years we witnessed numerous incidents of police officers being injured. I do know it is not easy for them, but they are professionals who know how to deal with such risks. The have decided for that profession, decided to work for the citizens benefit and I am convinced they will not succumb to any pressures or threats. I can only say we will strictly oppose those efforts and we expects media’s and public support in dealing with those who think they are above the law.

What is the overall security situation in the country? The American and the British embassy warn that there probably will not be any terrorist acts in the country, but there is a possibility, which sounds frightening, especially when it comes from official Washington and London?

Jankuloska: Immediately after the tourist recommendation issuance, we contacted international representatives in the country. We were told it is a matter of regular report of their Foreign Affairs Ministries, which is no different than the reports on any European state. I will repeat Macedonia is part of the global terrorism fight network, and as such it cannot be exempted of potential risks and threats. We continuously cooperate with services from the region and abroad, and according to our information, there is no serious risk to the general security situation at the moment. Anyways, we are prepared to react accordingly. We are located in a specific area and we must be alerted at any time.

Physical attacks in JSP buses become more frequent again. Is there a way to control violent perpetrators in the hundred of city lines which cover thousands of bus stops?

Jankuloska: I would not agree with your assertion. According to our information, such incidents have decreased in the last period. That does not mean we should take the fact for granted, but to continue with even more intensive realization of the prevention projects we had begun, aiming to promote interethnic coexistence, raise trust in the police and, most importantly, peaceful conflicts resolution.

As usual, part of the politicians savour a situation which is harmful to all. How would you comment on the behavior of some of the parties which are trying to win political scores from the disorders?

Jankuloska: In my opinion, such behavior is a sign of weakness and lack of ideas and visions to promote in the public and gain citizens’ support. That might bring them short-term results, but in the long run, it would return as a boomerang to these political entities. 2001 is way behind us. Citizens have demonstrated they can recognize a programme and a platform in the past eight years. Citizens have shown they no longer vote against, but expect propositions and cast their vote for projects. Personally, I always oppose such functioning, mostly because the damage it causes to all of us, the entire state. A personal or party interest must not be put before the interest of the state and citizens who live in it.

DUI’s leader, only three months after winning the biggest Albanian electorate trust ever, faces the biggest crisis ever since he became a politician. Is it possible for his request for international monitoring and return of “Monster” case to first instance to change something in terms of the verdict? Are partiality or procedure errors a possibility? We have not heard any legal argument from the defendants attorneys thus far.

Jankuloska: Republic of Macedonia is a sovereign, modern, democratic state. A state that meets the highest standards and has executive, legislative and judicial government. I have full trust in the courts and I am convinced justice will will eventually. Court procedure must be respected. It stipulates appeals and legal remedies. Our judges are professionals and well-trained and I am certain they will make decisions in accordance with the evidence and their personal views. The overall court trial so far was monitored and in accordance with our laws and there have been no remarks to the procedure. I would not allow myself to comment on the work of the courts, but I expect, after the verdict is concluded, for the concerned parties to bring out their remarks in the courtroom and to let the competent court to decide accordingly.

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By: Nenad Mircevski

Photo: Igor Angelovski