Using threatening tone, hate speech, nationalist pathos and threats, Osmani by the end of his speech called for disobedience to the then government of Macedonia, transformation of Gostivar into an "Albanian town", regionalization of the state etc. He concluded that "the only court we (i.e. Osmani and his buddies, author's remark) respect is the court of the Albanian people".
On May 26, the Gostivar town council informed the Constitutional Court that it refused to implement the court's injunction, although by law it was obliged to do so. Then Osmani organized armed sentries for the protection of the flag, which was described by the European court as "exceeding his mayoral powers". "Later," the court in Strasbourg concluded, "continuing to act outside his competencies as a mayor and violating the law, he (Osmani) established a central crisis headquarters with several regional outposts. A list of citizens of ethnic Albanian origin was compiled. These citizens were given special duties and financial resources were allocated for specific activities, such as propaganda and communications, shelters for injured individuals, etc."
On June 6, attempting to exert pressure on the Constitutional Court of Macedonia, the "citizen" (as the European Court in Strasbourg refers to Osmani) warned the Constitutional Court that the temporary injunction issued by the court on May 21 would incite inter-ethnic conflict in the municipality. That did not stop the Constitutional Court from abolishing with its decision, reached on June 11, 1997, article 140 of the Statute of the Gostivar municipality, which regulated the way in which flags should be displayed. The Constitutional Court justified its decision by stating that the Gostivar municipal council had no right to regulate such things.
On July 9, early in the morning, Police removed the flags hoisted in front of the town hall in Gostivar. The Court in Strasbourg, referring to the official police reports, concluded that the police found illegal firearms in its search of the town hall. Some of the weaponry was found in the mayor's office.
Somewhat later, that morning, a group of about 200 persons attacked the police, using among other Molotov cocktails. This group was dispersed, but a few hours later another 7000 to 8000 persons gathered and again attacked the police, using smoke grenades. The crowd was shouting "Bosnia, Bosnia". Shots were fired by both sides. One policeman was seriously wounded, while two demonstrators were killed in unclear circumstances. Three Albanian nationals were among the arrested demonstrators. During the arrest, thirty bottles with prepared Molotov cocktails were found on them. At about 5 pm, after residents of Gostivar were addressed by "citizen Osmani" via the local TV station, the police established full control of the town. During the searches of various buildings and offices, the police found illegal weapons (including machine guns), documentation about the organization of "crisis headquarters", as well as huge amounts of medications and other medical equipment needed in case of an armed conflict. During the search of the Osmani's house, the police found three illegal handguns, as well as lists of persons with various logistic and military tasks. The result of the clashes were three dead and more than 200 seriously or lightly injured citizens and policemen.
After a long analysis of the judicial proceedings, evidence, actions of the prosecution and the defense, and issued sentences, as well as parallel analysis of the Macedonian criminal law and constitution, the court in Strasbourg concluded that the whole procedure was legal and rejected "citizen Osmani's" appeal against the verdicts. Considering whether Osmani was a "victim" of the Macedonian judiciary, the court in Strasbourg concluded that "the fact that the plaintiff (Osmani) was paroled, does not imply that his sentence was illegal..." The court in Strasbourg also concluded that "in this case the plaintiff was guilty of inciting racial and religious hatred, conflict and intolerance as an official, given that he organized a public gathering on May 24, 1997, under the motto 'defense of the official use of the national flag', at which the national anthem of the republic of Albania was played and at which the plaintiff called on the citizens to defend the national flag of the Republic of Albania".
The Human Rights Court believes that in the given case the state did limit Osmani's right to free peaceful assembly, guaranteed by the International human rights convention. However, the court also found that "the law obliged the state to limit the right to free peaceful assembly", as "the court believes that article 319 of the criminal law constitutes sufficient basis for finding the plaintiff guilty". "This article," the European Court concluded, "is sufficiently specific and the plaintiff could envisage and predict the consequences of his actions to a satisfactory degree."
And what about Osmani's "actions"? This is how the European court describes them: "In given circumstances, the court is convinced that the involvement of the state was motivated by several legitimate goals, such as prevention of disturbances and crimes, national and public safety, and protection of freedoms and rights of others". In the given case, the state had the right to protect national security, public safety, the rights of others and prevent disturbances by taking criminal-legal measures against the plaintiff. Local courts provided sufficient justification to find the plaintiff guilty and to sentence him," states the court in Strasbourg. However, it also adds: "besides, given the fact that the plaintiff served only one year and three months of his prison sentence, his sentence was proportional to the legitimate goals of the authorities in this case".
Regarding the appropriateness of the sentence, after an analysis, the European court concluded: "the plaintiff spent one year and three months in prison. Therefore, even though the first verdict was harsh (eight years in prison, reduced after appeal to four years, author's remark), one year and three months in prison cannot be considered for a disproportionally harsh sentence, keeping in mind the details of the case." "Therefore, the complaint of the plaintiff (Osmani) that his rights to freedom of expression and assembly were violated is baseless(...). Consequently, the court, based on a majority decision, rejects the appeal."
First, there is no place for gloating for either side. People died, others were lightly or seriously injured, property was destroyed... Political radicalism and extremism of a mayor, among other, was clearly condemned by an independent European institution, in a case initiated by him.
Secondly, if the European justice were faster, and local extremism slower, perhaps the events of this year would not have taken place.
Thirdly, it is clear that such a clear decision of the European Human Rights Court cannot prevent various local fools from calling for armed defense of flags, anthems, "universities" and someone else's political careers. Unfortunately, young people will keep dying for such goals.
Finally, perhaps the best consequence of all this will be if at least citizen Rufi Osmani in the future remains out of politics, since, as we could see, not only from his case, how much damage and victims can be caused by irresponsible nationalist policies in the Balkans. If can serve for solace for Mr. Osmani, irresponsible politicians of his sort can be found among Macedonians as well. The departure of such Macedonian politicians would be an occasion for a celebration, indeed.