By KONSTANTIN TESTORIDESMacedonia will push for criminal charges against US soldiers
SKOPJE, Macedonia (April 13, 2000) - Macedonia wants criminal charges pressed against U.S. soldiers detained after a clash with residents that left a policeman seriously injured, said a police spokesman Thursday.
Stevo Pendarovski said Macedonian legal authorities will seek assault charges against American soldiers allegedly responsible for injuring a Macedonian policeman and brawling with residents Wednesday.
The policeman was injured when he tried to intervene in a clash between the Americans and the Skopje residents. The policeman was hit in the head with a brick, suffering serious head injuries, Pendarovski said.
"It is very likely that the most aggressive of the detained American soldiers will face charges for taking part in a brawl and attacking citizens," Pendarovski said.
U.S. military spokesmen said the Macedonians were free to make recommendations but final decisions on what action to take against the soldiers rested with American military authorities after an investigation.
Pendarovski said Macedonian police "will ask the Macedonian foreign ministry to submit the full report to the native country of the soldiers regarding the incidents."
Capt. Russell Berg, a spokesman at Kosovo's main U.S. base at Camp Bondsteel, said that once investigations were completed, "it will be decided whether there will be judicial punishment or nonjudicial punishment." All Americans involved were back in Kosovo, he said.
American troops were involved in three separate incidents Wednesday in the Macedonian capital, including one alleged clash with locals. NATO and U.S. military spokesmen said eight servicemen were detained, but on Thursday revised that figure to six.
One U.S. military spokesman suggested that in at least two of the cases, the U.S. soldiers did not initiate violence but reacted to being provoked.
But Macedonia's Interior Ministry said the U.S. soldiers were drunk and "behaved indecently, violated public law and order, harassed the citizens and injured one Macedonian policeman."
Macedonia serves as a staging ground and a supply route for international peacekeepers in neighboring Kosovo.