KFOR, KPS block Serb monastery after threats

VISOKI DEČANI -- The situation is calm on Friday afternoon in the vicinity of the monastery of Visoki Dečani in Kosovo, after "local extremists" were prevented to approach it.

(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)

Earlier in the day, the Raška-Prizren Eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) stated that its medieval monastery had been under siege since Friday morning.

KFOR and Kosovo police blocked off the monastery and formed cordons around it in order to prevent extremists from approaching on Friday morning, reports said earlier in the day.

In the afternoon, the KPS announced that "no protest took place", and that it had acted in time to prevent incidents.

The protest of the municipal officials and the radical ethnic Albanian Self-Determination Movement party ended without incidents around 14:30 CET.

Father Sava Janjić told B92 earlier that the situation was peaceful but tense. He said that the monks had been informed by Italian troops that a group of men would try to stage a protest near the monastery.

“KFOR stopped the group at a checkpoint this morning, the situation is peaceful but it is still dangerous because unseen hatred among people is incited. Banners they wanted to place in front of the monastery, saying ‘This is our monastery, keep your hands off our land’ prove it. The Dečani municipal leadership has been leading a unscrupulous media and political campaign for days aimed at overturning the decision of the Supreme Court to return the land to the monastery,” he said.

Janjić said that the behavior of the local authorities showed that they did not respect their own laws and structure. He believes that the campaign is aimed at driving the monks away, which would means that there would be no more Serbs left in Dečani.

Janjić today informed OSCE and EULEX that the monastery and monks could not lead a normal life and that the Dečani municipality not only failed to respect the laws but was also openly working on ethnical cleansing of the territory.

Visoki Dečani’s prior on Friday morning decided to close the gates of the monastery for the first time in 13 years due to threats of the Dečani municipality and groups that have been protesting for days against the monastery.

The extremist ethnic Albanian groups announced that they would hold a protest in front of the monastery on Friday.

According to the monastery’s monks, they have been exposed to the “most insulting messages and open threats” over a decision of the Kosovo Supreme Court to confirm that 23-hectare land belongs to the monastery.

“We consider such behavior, that is directly contrary to the rule of law, an open security threat and we cannot allow that threats be brought to vicinity of this holy place which is on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage List and which has been attacked four times by those who are forcing the campaign today,” the Raška-Prizren Eparchy has released.