Macedonian prosecutors target ex-premier Gruevski and allies

Indictments could reignite political tensions in the deeply divided Balkan state

Nikola Gruevski: he and his allies in the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party have always denied the allegations. Photograph: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

Nikola Gruevski: he and his allies in the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party have always denied the allegations. Photograph: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

 

Macedonia’s special prosecutor is seeking the detention of ex-prime minister Nikola Gruevski, several of his former ministers and a one-time intelligence chief, over major allegations that pitched the nation into more than two years of political crisis.

Katica Janeva, the head of the special prosecutor’s office, announced indictments against 94 people and seven firms in 18 cases on Thursday, ahead of a July 1st deadline for her agency to file charges.

The move against Mr Gruevski and close allies who ran Macedonia for a decade could stir anger among their nationalist supporters, who took to the streets this year to try to prevent a coalition of Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties taking power.

A pro-Gruevski mob stormed parliament in the Macedonian capital Skopje in April, and attacked deputies including Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev. He was finally installed as prime minister this month, after the European Union and United States warned that the crisis was jeopardising the country’s EU and Nato membership hopes.

Mr Gruevski, ex-interior minister Gordana Jankulovska and former transport minister Mile Janakieski were among those indicted for allegedly committing election fraud in 2013, according to the Balkan Insight news service.

Former culture minister Elizabeta Kanceska Milevska was indicted as part of an investigation into alleged fraud at that ministry, while ex-secret police chief Saso Mijalkov – Mr Gruevski’s cousin – was charged in connection with alleged illegal wiretapping and subsequent destruction of evidence.

Starting in early 2015, Mr Zaev released leaked wiretaps that appear to reveal top government, security and other officials of the time discussing crimes ranging from vote-rigging and misuse of state funds to the cover-up of a murder.

Denied allegations

Mr Gruevski and his allies in the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party have always denied the allegations, and accused Mr Zaev of working with an unnamed foreign intelligence service to stage a “coup”.

On Thursday, Mr Gruevski said the VMRO-DPMNE and its supporters were being “persecuted so that the party is destroyed or silenced”.

“This is a political, not legal process,” he said according to Macedonia’s MIA news agency, adding that the special prosecutor’s office “lost its impartiality and credibility a long time ago”.

As part of a 2015 deal brokered by the EU to try to end the crisis, the special prosecutor’s office was established to study the wiretapped material and press any resulting charges before July 1st this year.

The prosecutors say that more than half the material remains to be analysed, however, and they have vowed to continue that work even if parliament refuses to extend their deadline for filing indictments.

Mr Zaev’s ruling coalition wants to renew the special prosecutor’s mandate but does not have the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament, and VMRO-DPMNE deputies are highly unlikely to support the continued work of the agency.