Two years have passed since on May 9 and 10, 2015, in circumstances that are still unclear, eight people lost their lives and thirty-seven (fifty according to some information) members of the police units were injured in a bloody shootout in the Kumanovo settlement of Divo Naselje. The event that caused great concern among the citizens in Macedonia, still arouses doubts and bad memories. According to some analyses, it was a terrorist attack, even though almost all of the twenty-nine accused reject such accusations, claiming they were set up.
“We were used for political purposes, and we are neither the first nor the last to be used for that”, stated Nasuf Bekiri, one of the accused last year. He and the accused Rufki Dogani claimed they had been set up. Bekiri also demanded for this case to be cleared by the EU and the US, saying they will not admit any guilt.
The accused are being tried for terrorism and subverting the constitutional order, offences for which prison sentences from 8 to 10 years are imposed, or even life imprisonment. However, at the same time, some of the accused claim they were harassed and tortured in prison. Ombudsman Idzet Memeti also confirmed this in his statement: “These are not my conclusions, it is a matter of verbal and physical evidence”
CIVIL – Center for Freedom demanded from the МOI and the competent institutions to allow Memeti to visit the prisoners. Furthermore, for CIVIL the fact that at the beginning the MOI stated that “14 terrorists had been killed”, and that later the Prosecution came out with a number of 10 attackers killed, was unacceptable. CIVIL reacted to the unprofessionalism of the MOI and of the institutions, as well as in regards to their non-transparency and being closed to the public and the media. Such transparency contributed to the citizens losing trust in their own police.
In addition to speculations that the Macedonian authorities (i.e. the Macedonian Administration for Security and Counterintelligence) are connected with the organization of the entire event, an interesting fact is that this conflict, which had a tendency to grow into an interethnic one, occurred precisely when Zoran Zaev’s first “bombs” were released in the public.
Lawyer Naser Raufi, defender of one of the accused for Divo Naselje, at a hearing stated: “Regarding the decisive facts, we consider that there is a genesis, a connection between the events and ‘Divo Naselje’ – with the ‘bombs’, so-called bombs, wiretapped conversations. The defendants and I are convinced that the public was to be defocused from the wiretapped conversations with these events”.
CIVIL’s team, along with Josip Juratovik, MP of the German Parliament and prominent union leader in Germany, on May 16, 2015 visited Divo Naselje and spoke with residents who were directly affected by the unexpected armed attack on their homes.
We spoke with Juratovik on his first impressions following the discussion with the local population and reviewing the damage that was caused.
What left us an impression during the visit was that the people were angry. The material damage will be compensated, but the fear they went through and the attempt along ethnic lines to break up the coexistence built for years, are scars that will be difficult to heal.
In February 2016, Naser Raufi requested for the case to be taken over by the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Katica Janeva, but his request was rejected by the court.
Sixty-eight homes were damaged in Divo Naselje from the shelling, and some of the families are still living in houses of relatives or renting places, nine months after the tragic events. For some families that situation has not changed even after two years.
A protest march was held on May 9, 2016 in Kumanovo, marking the anniversary of the events that took place on May 9 and 10 the previous year. Around 2000 citizens passed through the streets of Divo Naselje and in front of the “Tode Mendol” health facility, where the President of the local community, Saban Demiri, held a speech in which he reminded the residents that in spite of attempts to create interethnic conflict, everyone suffered in the conflict. And that this has brought them even closer together.
Additionally, Demiri reminded that many families, whose homes had been destroyed, are still living with relatives and friends or are renting places, and that the means for covering the material damage have still not been paid to them. Only some of them have managed to renovate their homes with their own money.
This year the questions remain: What is actually happening in Kumanovo? Who is to blame for the eight policemen who lost their lives? What were the motives? Did the Agency for Security and Counterintelligence previously know about the group, and if so, why did it allow for such armed violence to take place? When will the case ‘Divo Naselje’ be resolved in court?
And if every hearing is conducted behind closed doors, when will the families of the fallen members of the police receive information on whether the bloody event of May 9, 2015 could have been prevented?
Today in the Kumanovo settlement of Divo Naselje houses are renovated. So are the streets. Few traces of bullets on abandoned houses are the only witness that someone, there, tried cause a “minor” bloody war.