A court in FYROM (Macedonia) on Thursday convicted 33 people of planning terrorist attacks as members of an ethnic Albanian militant group.
Heavy security, including helicopters flying overhead, protected the court proceedings in Skopje. Armored vehicles and at least 100 police officers deployed around the courthouse to safeguard the participants in the highly anticipated trial.
All 29 men accused of being part of or helping the armed group that clashed with police in ethnically-mixed Kumanovo in May this year told the Skopje court on Monday that they were not terrorists.
The ethnic Albanian suspects denied the charges and said the bloody two-day shootout was a result of them defending themselves from the police.
Amid a heavy police presence in a Skopje courtroom full of friends and relatives of the six alleged ethnic Albanian Muslim extremists who were sentenced to life in prison for terrorism over the killings, judge Liljana Shopova postponed the public hearing until September 11, citing "unfulfilled legal conditions".
Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were found guilty on Monday of killing five ethnic Macedonians at Orthodox Easter in 2012 and given the longest possible sentence for terrorism offences, life in prison.
The court said that the murder was planned and carried out in a “vicious manner”.
Defence attorney Naser Raufi told the Skopje criminal court in his closing arguments on Thursday that the seven accused had nothing to do with the murder of five ethnic Macedonians during Orthodox Easter in 2012.
Raufi who is the attorney for five of the defendants, all of whom are ethnic Albanians, said they should be released due to “lack of evidence”.