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Outcry Over Ethnically Charged Death Case In Macedonia

The protest took place outside the government building in Skopje on March 21.

Several thousand people have demonstrated in Macedonia’s capital to protest against a prosecutor’s decision to reduce the charges against an ethnic Macedonian man who slammed his car into a four-year old ethnic Albanian child in 2016.

The protest took place outside the government building in Skopje on March 21, after the country’s justice minister resigned amid a public outcry over the ethnically-charged case.

Almir Aliu died of his injuries shortly after being hit by a car in the ethnically mixed northern town of Kumanovo in June 2016, allegedly following an argument between his father and the car's driver.

During the ongoing trial in which members of both families are being prosecuted for their alleged roles in the brawl, the Aliu family claimed that the death of the boy was a case of premeditated murder.

The car's driver, Boban Ilic, insisted that he was the one being attacked and claimed he hit the child while trying to escape.

Earlier this month, the prosecutor reduced the charges against him from "deliberate murder" to "serious traffic offense."

The murder charge carries a maximum life sentence, while the traffic offense charge carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years.

Outraged by the decision, several thousand protesters, mainly ethnic Albanians, gathered outside the government building to call for the resignations of the prosecutor and the judge involved in the case.

The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "No justice, no peace." One of the banners read "Little Almir does not rest in peace."

The rally comes after Bilen Saliji, the justice minister, said late on March 20 that he was resigning due to deteriorating public trust in the judiciary.

Saliji comes from the ranks of the government's junior coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).

The European Union, which Macedonia hopes to join, has urged Skopje to reform its judicial system, which is believed to be controlled by the country's political elites, with corruption scandals and nepotism.

With reporting by AP and Balkan Insight