Macedonia: Court Rejects Detention for Ex-PM Gruevski

Macedonia’s Appeal Court has rejected a plea to detain former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and top officials of his VMRO DPMNE party ahead of their trial on election fraud charges.

Nikola Gruevski

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Gruevski and other former ministers from his government who have been charged with masterminding election fraud in 2013 will remain free but with their passports seized as a precautionary measure, the country’s Appeals Court has ruled.

The Appeal Court thereby rejected an appeal brought by the Special Prosecution, SJO, which claimed that the defendants might flee the country or influence witnesses in their trial.

The court also rejected the request of the defendants to be given their passports back. The court was expected to formally explain its decisions later on Monday.

Gruevski and his close associates – former Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska, former Transport Minister Mile Janakieski, former government Secretary General Kiril Bozinovski and former cabinet chief Martin Protugjer – are accused of organizing electoral fraud in a case brought by the SJO codenamed “Titanic”.

Gruevski is charged on three accounts in the case: criminal association; misuse of assets during an election campaign; and violation of the freedom of voters.

At the hearing in the Appeal Court on Friday, Gruevski, who has pleaded not guilty, insisted that the decision to confiscate his passport was degrading, adding that he does not plan to flee the country but to stay at the helm of his party and win back power. His VMRO DPMNE party held power from 2006 until May this year.

The SJO raised several indictments in June against former top officials, most coming from the VMRO DPMNE party, and requested their detention.

After the Skopje Criminal Court rejected the detention requests, the SJO appealed the decisions before the Appeal Court.

Meanwhile, the Appeal Court on Monday was also due to review the SJO appeal regarding the proposed detention of former Culture Minister Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska.

The SJO indicted her in the case codenamed “Tenders” for allegedly setting up an unlawful million-euro tender to build part of a museum.

Milevska, who also denied guilt, told the Appeal Court hearing on Monday that the SJO’s insistence on her arrest surprised her as she was not influencing witnesses, nor does she intend to flee the country.

25 July 2017

Balkan Insight

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