The former Interior Minister of Macedonia, Ljube Boskovski, has surrendered to the United Nation's War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague to face charges of involvement in atrocities against ethnic Albanians during a bloody insurgency in 2001.
Mr. Boskovski left a jail in nearby Croatia where he had been held on separate charges since last year.
Under mounting international pressure the 44-year-old former Macedonian Interior Minister Boskovski left Croatia's capital Zagreb Thursday to defend himself at The Netherlands-based U.N. court. He is accused of involvement in killing ethnic Albanian civilians.
U.N. Prosecutors say the minister and his former bodyguard Johan Tarculovski, who surrendered last week, were responsible for murdering at least seven ethnic Albanian civilians during the seven-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian security forces in 2001.
The killings allegedly took place in the village of Ljuboten near the capital Skopje.
Mr. Boskovski and Mr. Tarculovski are the only Macedonians indicted by the U.N. Tribunal, which is not expected to be issuing further indictments against major figures from the 1990s wars that broke up the former Yugoslavia.
However, analysts have warned that the extradition could increase tensions between Macedonians and the country's ethnic Albanian community ahead of the second round of local municipal elections Sunday.
An analyst at Macedonia's independent Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Skopje, Ana Petruseva, tells VOA News that many Macedonians believe the U.N. transfer of Mr. Boskovski to the court in The Hague was motivated by international resentment towards them.
"Nobody will pay attention to the fact that it is about individual guilt. But it will be seen as a bias of The Hague [tribunal] towards Macedonians," she said. "In that respect it will increase inevitably the bitterness among Macedonians. There was a protest the other day where some 2,000 to 3,000 people demanding the release of Boskovski and [bodyguard] Tarculovski. And of course there argument is unsurprisingly that these people are hero's because they defended the country at a time of war and that [therefore] they should be released."
His upcoming U.N. trial is not the only court case faced by Mr. Boskovski. The former minister, who has both Croatian and Macedonian citizenship, was previously arrested and detained in Croatia in August 2004 on another warrant issued in Macedonia for his apparent involvement in other killings as well.
Macedonian prosecutors say Mr. Boskovski lured seven Asian migrant workers into Macedonia in 2002 and stage-managed their murder to make it look as if they had been members of the terror network al-Qaida, fighting for the ethnic Albanian cause.
It was not yet clear how the U.N. tribunal's efforts would effect the separate investigations into the other killings.
Experts say the U.N. Tribunal has until 2008 to finish trials, with a further deadline of 2010 to cover any outstanding appeals.