Defense minister "was on probation" at time of appointment

SKOPJE -- Macedonia's new defense minister, Talat Xhaferi, was in 2011 sentenced to two years probation for "obstructing a police officer in performing his duties".

(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

The appointment of the ethnic Albanian politician and former commander of rebels who took up arms against the Macedonian forces in the early 2000s caused rioting in Skopje last week.

The Balkan Insight website is reporting that Xhaferi was first sentenced to six months in jail in 2008, after an incident that happened during a rally of his Democratic Union for Integration - an ethnic Albanian party that is now a member of Macedonia's ruling coalition.

However, the final verdict from 2011 saw the court in the town of Tetovo sentence at that time MP Xhaferi to two years probation.

Xhaferi, whose appointment was put forward on February 18 by Macedonia's PM Nikola Gruevski, will have completed his sentence this month.

This is yet another reason cited by the small opposition Dignity Party who are asking for the decision to appoint Xhaferi to be revoked.

The party was set up to protect the interests of police and military personnel who fought against the Albanian insurgents in 2001.

The Macedonian veterans have also launched an initiative to collect 150,000 signatures so that the issue could be decided in a referendum.

Last Friday, young Macedonians gathered to protest against the appointment, while next day ethnic Albanians took to the streets.

During the two days of violence in Skopje 30 people were injured, and cars and buses set on fire.

Albanians have announced a new protest for tomorrow.