A court in Skopje has rejected some of the key evidence in the case against ex-prime minister and leader of the governing VMRO-DPMNE party Nikola Gruevski, who is accused of inciting the party’s supporters to violence.
A series of investigations have been launched by the special prosecution office (SPO), which is in charge of probing high-level crimes connected to the 2015 wiretapping scandal in Macedonia. Illegally wiretapped conversations implicated Gruevski and other top officials, precipitating mass protests. The decision to reject the evidence could now set a precedent for other cases being probed on the basis of the wiretapped conversations.
Gruevski, his former Transport Minister Mile Janakieski and 12 others have been charged with ordering an attack against the opposition mayor of Skopje’s Centar municipality, Andrej Zernovski, during a protest in 2013, shortly after Zernovski won the local elections.
The taped conversation allegedly indicates that Gruevski ordered Janakieski to arrange a protest and for some of the protestors to be allowed to enter the municipal building and for Zernovski to “take five-six slaps in front of the cameras.”
However, at the pretrial hearing judge Tatjana Mihajlova refused to accept the wiretapped conversation as evidence since the recording was not obtained legally, news agency MIA reported on December 16.
Mihajlova also did not allow the testimony of a protected witness to be used as evidence, since this kind of evidence is used only for serious crimes, which was not the case with Gruevski’s trial.
Indictments for violence were filed on September 15 against 14 people, of which five are being indicted for inciting violence and nine for being direct perpetrators.
The pretrial hearing was initially scheduled for November 21, but was cancelled before the snap general election held on December 11. The main hearing will be held on February 22.
The group, supposedly members of VMRO-DPMNE, gathered in front of the Centar municipality shortly after Zernovski won the local election and held a violent protest to prevent the municipal session, which had changes to the urban plan on the agenda. One person was injured during the protest and the windows of the municipality building were broken.
The protest was ostensibly against the demolition of the Orthodox church in downtown Skopje, which was under construction as part of the Skopje 2014 revamp project. However, Zernovski denied there were any plans for the demolition. Zernovski was evacuated during the attack and was not injured.
The SPO, led by Katica Janeva, was set up to probe allegations based on illegally wiretapped conversations allegedly ordered by Gruevski. Gruevski denied it and said that Zaev obtained the recordings from foreign intelligence services. However, one of the latest SPO investigations indicates that officials from the Macedonian’s secret service are behind the wiretaps.
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