A Macedonian court has sentenced to life in prison a police officer who shot dead two ethnic Albanians, fuelling inter-ethnic tensions in the Balkans country, an official said Saturday.
The court in the northwestern town of Gostivar found Jakim Trifunovski guilty of the double murder of the Albanians, aged 26 and 29, following a dispute over a parking space in February 2012, the official told AFP.
Trifunovski, who used the official gun and was off the duty at the time of the incident, claimed self-defence and pleaded not guilty at the trial. Trifunovski's lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.
The incident sparked a huge protest by the ethnic Albanian community in Gostivar that was a prelude to a number of ethnically-motivated incidents in Macedonia last spring.
Relations between the two communities in this former Yugoslav republic have improved but are still marred by occasional tensions since the conflict in 2001 between the Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels.
When a peace deal was signed in August 2001, ethnic Albanians, who make up some 25 percent of Macedonia's population of two million, were given more rights and included more in the society.