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Profile: Azem Vllasi
Azem Vllasi was a participant or observer in the following events:
The League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY)‘s Eighteenth Plenum does not approve Slobodan Milosevic’s proposal that the Central Committee be purged; Milosevic, the leader of the LCY’s Serbian branch, retains his post. National LCY leader Stipe Suvar, a Croat, and Milan Kucan, leader of the Slovenian LCY, criticize Milosevic. Suvar proposes a confidence vote in the Politcal Bureau, but Milosevic rejects the idea, because he is a regional leader and the Plenum represents the entire Yugoslav party. Milosevic also ignores the Plenum’s vote to fire his aide, Dusan Ckrebic. The Slovenian leadership is willing to consider Serbia’s demand for constitutional amendment in exchange for more capitalistic economic policies. Milosevic says the recent Serb demonstrations show the high level of civil liberties in Yugoslavia, while Kosovar LCY leader Azem Vllasi, an ethnic Albanian and target of Serb demonstrations, says they are one aspect of “a well-disguised attempt to change the policy of national equality in Yugoslavia and the country’s foundations.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 175-176]
At the end of January, ethnic Albanians demonstrate in favor of Kosovar communist party leader Rahman Morina. This follows Morina’s refusal to meet with the Free Students, a new group calling for political reforms, the suspension of political trials, and the release of political prisoners. The protesters in January are joined by workers, and tens of thousands protest for the end of the state of emergency, for civil liberties, open elections, and for the freedom of a group of arrested miners and Azem Vllasi, who has been on trial in fits and starts since October in a courthouse ringed by tanks and off limits to diplomats and observers. Demonstrators assault trains, buses, and cars before being attacked by Serbian police, leading to more demonstrations. Academic Paulin Kola will say that 27 protesters and one officer are killed, and over 100 are wounded in all, while author Miranda Vickers will say 31 demonstrators die. The Yugoslav military intervenes and a curfew is declared in late February. However, in mid-April Serbia’s ministry of the interior takes control of Kosovo’s police, and then the Yugoslav presidency ends the emergency and curfew, and releases 108 prisoners, including the miners, Vllasi, and Adem Demaci. Demaci is a popular figure among Kosovar Albanians and advocates non-violent means. Albanian police officers are replaced by 2,500 Serbian police. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 241-243; Kola, 2003, pp. 185-186]
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