Sulejman Rexhepi, head of the Islamic Community of Macedonia (IVZ), declared this evening that he is now on the opposite side of the Zoran Zaev Government. The dramatic statement came after a major police raid against IVZ, with the goal to remove Rexhepi and install a pro-Government cleric in his place as reis of the Islamic Community.

This is a police state, said Rexhepi, surrounded by supporters. “As of this evening, we are no longer on the same side with this Government”.

His challenger, Skender Buzaku, declared himself the new reis, while supporters of two competing clerics remained in the IVZ building.

The Riaset, IVZ’s highest body, held an urgent meeting in the village of Kondovo, just outside Skopje, to examine the situation. Rexhepi’s supporters in the Riaset said that the court order which Buzaku has is not valid for IVZ, which is an independent institution and appoints its own leaders.

The police move against Rexhepi came after he publicly warned Prime Minister Zoran Zaev that he will campaign against his presidential candidate Stevo Pendarovski, unless major landed properties, with deeds dating back to the Ottoman times, are given to IVZ by the Government.