With the Albanian voters providing ever more crucial for the future survival of the Zoran Zaev Government, the Prime Minister faces a difficult decision over what to do with the 30 Albanian terrorists sentenced to life in prison over their 2015 attack on Kumanovo, where they killed eight Macedonian police officers.
Most Albanian parties which support Zaev’s coalition, and those in the opposition, signed on to the 2017 Tirana platform, which demands re-examination of the case against the terrorist group, whose members are considered as national heroes among many Albanians. One proposal aimed at having them released provides that the current Appeals Court trial is replaced with an international tribunal. This would include foreign experts who, proponents of the idea believe, would be more lenient and the terrorists would be released by putting forward some of the several conspiracy theories about the attack which Zaev and his supporters have promoted in the past. Chief among them is to claim that the group was not in Kumanovo to fight for Greater Albania, and was not aware of the purpose of their mission.
Zaev has used the group to attack his political opponents, allowing them to virtually run a prison near Skopje, and their commanders endorsed Stevo Pendarovski as President days before he won nearly all Albanian votes that were cast.
But, even for Zaev, pardoning the group may be a step too far, whatever form the pardons take.
It would be difficult to organize an international investigation. It is not in accordance with our law that foreign institutions conduct investigations on our territory. The defendants have the right to provide their own evidence and forensics analysis, and then, they can seek further legal remedies in Strasbourg, says lawyer Zvonko Davidovik.
During the Appeals Court trial, members from the group engaged in theatrics these past few days, flashing Albanian nationalist signs and at one point threatening the judge that she and all Macedonians will be expelled from the Balkans where “you came as settlers”..
Both Zaev and his Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski have promised an international investigation or trial for the terrorist group. Zaev announced this as early as November 2017, when he said he will “work with the international community to prepare a new investigation for the group”. Spasovski added that this is an “obligation for the Government”.