Macedonian ex-interior minister among 36 arrested for violent incidents in parliament

Macedonian ex-interior minister among 36 arrested for violent incidents in parliament
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was injured in the violent attack on the parliament, which was unprotected by police.
By bne IntelliNews November 28, 2017

A top Macedonian conservative politician has been arrested for allowing protesters close to his own party to attack parliament and assault deputies from the then opposition Social Democrats during the country's political crisis in the spring. 

Mitko Cavkov and 35 other persons were ordered to be detained early on November 28 in connection with violent protests in the parliament at the end of April, when several MPs were injured. The detentions could reignite protests by the VMRO-DPMNE against the now governing Social Democrat-Albanian coalition, which took office at the end of May.

At the time of the incidents, Cavkov, from the now opposition VMRO-DPMNE, led the operational command centre of the interior ministry. He is accused of failing to give an order to police officers to stop the violence, thus putting in danger the life of lawmakers and journalists who were in the assembly building.

More than 100 people, including the then opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who is now prime minister, and Radmila Sekerinska, who now serves as defence minister, as well as other MPs were injured when angry demonstrators broke into the parliament on April 27. The violence started after the parliamentary majority, led by Zaev’s Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) elected Talat Xhaferi from the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) as speaker, which opened the way for Social Democrats to form a government. Conservative VMRO-DPMNE, which had ruled since 2006 narrowly won the December 2016 snap election, but failed to form a government due to the lack of support from ethnic Albanian parties. 

The arrested are suspected for a “terrorist threat to the constitutional order”, the public prosecution office said in a statement on November 28. They can face prison sentences of up to 10 years.

"The public prosecution office has completed the pre-trial procedure and after reviewing the evidences it issued an order for launching an investigative procedure against 36 people," the statement said. "The operation started in the morning and among arrested is former director of the Bureau for Public Security (Cavkov), an official from interior ministry’s press office told bne IntelliNews. She did not provide more details, saying that the police acted upon an order of the Public Prosecution Office.

The arrested are sent to the court for hearing. The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party urged its supporters to stage protests in front of the court as the most of the arrested came from this party. The court is under heavy police presence.

Cavkov served as interior minister from May 2015 to the end August of 2016 following the mini cabinet reshuffle of the previous government led by Nikola Gruevski, replacing Gordana Jankulovska, who is under investigation in several cases launched by the Special Prosecution Office, which is tasked to probe high level crime. Cavkov resigned as minister on September 1, 2016, in line with the Przino Agreement aimed to end the political crisis in Macedonia, and then was appointed Director of the Bureau of Public Safety.

Among the arrested on November 28 were opera singer Igor Durlovski and actor Vlado Jovanovski, who also participated in the violent protests, broadcaster Telma reported.

In October, a Macedonian court sentenced the attacker of Sekerinska to four years in prison, which was the first prison sentence for the incidents in the parliament. Secerinska was pulled by the hair during the incident, which was shown in TV footage

In May, nine people, who were indicted for for participation in a mob and preventing officials from performing their duty during the violent incidents in the Macedonian parliament at the end of April, were given suspended sentences by a Skopje court.

The SDSM came to power at the end of May, ending a decade of rule by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party. The SDSM has claimed that people close to its conservative rival were behind the  parliament incidents. VMRO has denied any role in the events.