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Macedonia might free Albanian rebels

Macedonia might free Albanian rebels Posted December 3, 2001

Monday, 3 December, 2001, 16:27 GMT
Macedonia might free Albanian rebels[]
Western leaders have been pushing for the amnesty
By Nicholas Wood in Skopje

Macedonia is considering whether to free 88 prisoners accused of being former members of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla organisation, the National Liberation Army. []

The guerrillas laid down their arms with a promise of amnesty

Their release was proposed by President Boris Trajkovski, and is seen as essential to ensuring that the country's peace process continues smoothly.

The 88 prisoners are either awaiting trial or have already been sentenced for their alleged involvement with the conflict between gunmen and security forces this year.

A pardoning committee, led by President Boris Trajkovski, is expected to consider their release and may announce a decision later on Monday.

Proof of intention

The step is seen as essential to the former Yugoslav republic's peace process, which remains in a fragile state.

Western diplomats believe the release will provide substantial proof of the government's intention to give an amnesty to former members of the National Liberation Army.

Macedonian hardliners oppose the release

The guerrilla movement laid down its arms with a promise of an amnesty in September.

The failure to resolve the issue has threatened to derail the peace agreement signed in August.

Some government members doubt the guerrillas' intentions and are openly opposed to the accord.

The arrest of seven Albanians during a police operation near the city of Tetovo last month saw the re-emergence of ethnic Albanian gunmen - a standoff between them and the security forces remains.

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