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THU, 28 FEB 2002 00:19:47 GMT

When Journalists and Policemen are Doing Each Other’s Job

In just two weeks a humanitarian organization transformed from a branch of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization which tried to supply Albanian “terrorists” with food, blankets and army winter jackets into legal humanitarians who are legally importing the same goods into the country without stirring up any noise and with the blessing of the Prime Minister. But, whether the story will have a happy ending it is still uncertain.

AIM Skopje, February 15, 2002

In the beginning of February, Macedonian daily Dnevnik published a story which without any reservations accused the cultural humanitarian organization Merhamed of being part of the worldwide most ill-famed terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden. At the time when the most powerful world powers headed by the USA are waging war against it, Dnevnik claims that "humanitarian convoy of Al Kaida has tried to enter Macedonia" and informs its readers that "trucks of Merhamed humanitarian organization from Saudi Arabia were turned back from Bogorodica border crossing because they had not passed the border veterinary control". Aware that it is slightly ridiculous for any state to prevent terrorists from operating in it by the pretext that they do not have all the necessary papers of veterinary services, Dnevnik gives the real reason why 23 trucks carrying 300 tons of goods were turned back from the Macedonian-Greek border. Referring to "foreign intelligence sources" the newspaper claims that "this humanitarian organization is a branch of Osama bin Laden's terrorist Al Kaida" organization and that humanitarian aid which consists of "blankets, army winter jackets, canned food, powder milk and various meat products" was "in fact assigned to the members of the so-called ANA (controversial Albanian National Army which does not recognize the Ohrid peace agreement and which is still at war with Macedonian security forces - note of the author)". In the article it is also stated that "based on the information of Macedonian security services, Merhamed humanitarian organization applied for registration of its branch in the First Court in Skopje", but the "Court turned down the application and Merhamed opened a branch in Kosovo from where it satisfied its needs in the Balkan". It is also stated that "American services had big problems with this branch of Al Kaida"!

It is interesting that on that very day Nova Makedonija daily from Skopje that is controlled by the ruling VMRO-DPMNE published a similar but by far more prudently put story according to which the biggest accusation of Merhamed is the assessment that it is close to radical Islamists. Journal Vest published information on this case in quite the opposite intonation obviously founded on the data of Merhamed which tried to attract the attention of the public with its statement on details of all the ups and downs it had with Macedonian state services.

After the article in Dnevnik state prosecutor did not react, although according to Macedonian criminal law it is his obligation to react even when he hears, or reads information that somebody has committed a crime. Nor did the police react although it has similar authority. But the people close to Merhamed claim that they received an indirect message that it was possible to bring the aid into the country, but only if Merhamed handed over three trucks loaded with food products to the men from State Security Service.

Merhamed organized a press conference, where besides the documents on registration of the organization in Macedonia, a few interesting papers were offered. The first one shows that the donor of the aid is Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance. The second is the permit of veterinary services that arrived with a delay and that shows that the goods were all right, and the third most interesting one shows that from a fax-machine identified as MUP (Ministry of Internal Affairs) someone sent a demand that the goods be returned in the name of a non-existent shipping service. Documents of unofficial origin or from an unofficial agency, which were obviously used for the return of humanitarian aid! Of course, after the Saudi Arabians had paid 40 thousand US dollars of storage charge.

A new article appeared in Dnevnik in answer to Merhamed’s explanation, but TV Sitel, whose signal covers the whole territory of Macedonia, also broadcast an interesting contribution. In its style, this TV station broadcast one of its customary information-commentaries corroborating its allegations against Merhamed by declaring that it was a branch of Al Kaida with alleged confirmations from Interpol and CIA!

A week later quite the opposite to these information, on TV Era, local TV station in Albanian, Minister of labour and social issues, Behredin Ibrahimi, declared that he and his party (Democratic Party of the Albanians-DPA) did their best to enable the humanitarian aid to enter the country because there was no hindrance for that, but that at a certain moment the situation “exceeded his competence”. Ibrahimi claimed that the aid would very soon enter the country without any problems, because his ministry which is in charge saw no reason not to permit that and that he had guarantees for that from persons who were his superiors.

The latest information says that the controversial aid has arrived by train to Gevgelija and that it will enter Macedonia any moment now. That this time the customs and the police will not make any problems is certain not only because of the official protest note sent by Saudi Arabia, but also because of the guarantees allegedly given by Ljubco Georgievski himself.

Nevertheless, the questions remain open who directed the whole case and what was the intended aim. If there is evidence of Macedonian police, Interpol, CIA that Merhamed is a branch of Al Kaida and that it supplies aid for the “terrorists” who are waging war against the Macedonian state, how is it possible that this organization is still active, not to say anything about its officials still freely walking down the streets of Skopje? If the donor is the Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia, does it mean that its government is a branch of Osama bin Laden’s organization? And finally, how come Macedonian Prime Minister entered the game but on the side of the opponents?

It seems that this story is too intricate and too simple at the same time, that it is part of internal haggling between ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political bloc within the ruling coalition, perhaps even a conflict of their “business” interests. Besides, it is quite obvious that policemen are acting journalists and producing stories for newspapers, while journalists are acting policemen allegedly revealing bizarre conspiracies and internal state enemies who are freely operating in collaboration with the bitterest enemy of world powers.

ISO RUSI

(AIM)