Kosovo police arrest 6 over attack on parliament building

Kosovo police arrest 6 over attack on parliament building
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia August 30, 2016

The police have arrested six suspects in connection to the explosive device thrown at the parliament building on August 4, the police and the state prosecutor said in a joint press release on August 30.  The suspects are reportedly activists from the Vetevendosje (Self Determination) opposition movement. 


The August 4 incident took place in a climate of increased tensions between government and opposition as Kosovan MPs prepare to vote on September 1 on a controversial border demarcation deal with Montenegro. The opposition and border region residents allege that the deal deprives Kosovo of several thousand hectares of land.


The attack caused no injuries. A 48-hour detention measure has been imposed for the suspects.


“The respective suspects have claimed responsibility for undertaking this attack,” the August 30 statement said. The official information contains only the initials of the arrested, but according to local media, they are Vetevendosje activists. 


Vetevendosje leader Visar Ymeri told a press conference, "Today's arrests are a classic act of how political opponents are persecuted,” Reuters reported on August 30.


Vetevendosje and other Kosovan opposition parties are against the agreement, which was signed by Kosovo and Montenegro on August 26, 2015. It has become one of the two main causes of a deep political crisis in the country, along with an agreement with Serbia giving Serb majority municipalities more autonomy. 


In 2015 and 2016, the opposition has released repeatedly tear gas in the parliament and has held protests against both deals. 


The August 4 attack was followed by three other incidents, none of which resulted in injuries. On August 9, a hand grenade was thrown at the house of the head of the government commission for demarcation, Murat Meha. The weapon did not go off and was detonated in a controlled explosion.


On August 22, a hand grenade was thrown into the courtyard of the headquarters of public broadcaster RTK in Pristina, and caused slight damage to transmitters. On August 28, a hand grenade was thrown at the house of RTK director Mentor Shala. 


Vetevendosje has denied any involvement in the latest attack. However, in an August 29 statement the party accused RTK of being a “propaganda tool” of the Kosovan government, and claimed the broadcaster was guilty of biased reporting.


The government, the US and the EU have been pushing for the demarcation deal to be accepted, and reject the allegations that Kosovo would lose land. The EU has set ratification of the border agreement as one of two conditions to be fulfilled before the European Parliament and Council adopt a proposal from the European Commission for lifting visa requirements for the people of Kosovo.