Unrest follows arrests

August 2, 1996

A new wave of ethnic protest has broken out in Skopje, capital of Macedonia, following the sentencing of five academics of the unofficial Albanian-language University of Tetovo to terms of imprisonment ranging from four months to one year. The five include Fadilj Sulejmani, the university's rector, and four faculty members.

According to the Macedonian authorities the university, founded on the initiative of Macedonia's ethic Albanian minority, is illegal and unconstitutional, since only the government has the right to found universities.

In spite of the official ban and police attempts to block the formal opening of the university in December 1994, the university has managed to survive and is now preparing for its third academic year.

The jailing of the professors seems to have been, at least in part, a response to recent pressure from MPs from ethnic Albanian minority parties - the Party for Democratic Prosperity of Albanians (PDPA) and the National Democratic Party (NDP) - to change the law so that Tetovo University could become an official part of the Macedonian educational system. The government, however, was unwilling to consider this.

Accordingly, in the first few days after the jailing of the professors, demonstrators in Skopje, carrying banners bearing slogans such as "The University will Survive" and "The University is Legitimate", urged Albanians to leave the government.

On July 19, following another blocked attempt to get the university issue on to the parliamentary agenda, MPs from the two parties formally announced they were withdrawing from the parliament.

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