Ethnic Albanians protest in Decani
Ethnic Albanians in Decani on Thursday protested against a Kosovo Constitutional Court decision concerning Monastery Decani.Source: RTS, Tanjug
Last week, the court confirmed property rights of this medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery to 24 hectares of land.
Tanjug is reporting that the protest lasted some 30 minutes, with only Decani Mayor Rasim Selmanaj addressing the crowd.
No incident took place during the protest which passed off under heightened security measures. Ethnic Albanians see the Constitutional Court's decision, that ended 16 years of dispute, as a violation of the law.
Serbian state broadcaster RTS reported earlier in the day that organizers said the protest would be peaceful - "but that "experience teaches that any gathering of Albanians motivated by inter-ethnic relations can turn violent."
SPC property has been targeted by Albanian attacks in the past in Kosovo, "therefore no scenario should be ruled out in Decani," the report added.
Municipal authorities in Decani have urged as many people as possible to turn out for the protest, calling the court's decision "illegal and discriminatory toward Decane residents" and one that, among other things, "prevents the town's economic development."
During an extraordinary session held on Wednesday, councilors "expressed their political will to oppose in every way the implementation of the decision."
The property in question was taken away from the monastery by the communist authorities after WW2, and returned to it with a Serbian government decision in 1997. Since the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, local authorities have been denying the monastery's right to the land.
Some deputies in the Kosovo Assembly have joined the Decani councilors in their opposition to the court's decision, saying that the monastery and its monks "should give up on the land and choose friendship with Albanians, instead of self-isolation."
Visoki Decani is the only monastery in Kosovo still protected by KFOR soldiers. In came under armed attack on several occasions in the past, while ethnic Albanians also attempted to force their way into its premises. A group of Islamic extremists was arrested in front of it recently. Two years ago, graffiti glorifying Islamic State was discovered on Visoki Decani's walls, RTS said.
Meanwhile, Sputnik is reporting that the announced protest "could raise inter-ethnic tensions, and radicalize disagreements between Albanian parties, which could directly reflect on the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija."