Nine people indicted for their role in violent incidents in the Macedonian parliament at the end of April were given suspended sentences by a Skopje court on May 23.
The nine were indicted for participation in a mob and preventing officials from performing their duty when they stormed the parliament and attacked opposition MPs on April 27. The extremely light sentences have angered many Macedonians, and raised suspicions that the court is influenced by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party whose supporters are believed to have been responsible for the incident.
Those sentenced were among hundreds of protestors who broke into the parliament, and started attacking MPs from the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and ethnic Albanian parties. The incident was sparked by the election of Talat Xhaferi as parliament speaker, which was also obstructed by MPs from VMRO-DPMNE, which has ruled since 2006, but failed to form a government following the December snap election.
The SDSM has claimed that people close to its conservative rival were behind the incident and that judiciary is heavily influenced by VMRO.
Eight of those indicted were granted suspended sentences of six months if they do not commit another criminal act within 1.5 years, while one defendant received suspended sentence of 1.6 years provided he is not involved in similar acts in the next five years, news agency MIA reported.
All those indicted pleaded guilty at the trial. It was originally due to be held on May 18, but was postponed until May 23 as one defendant was absent.
The court also canceled detention orders imposed previously for some of the nine indicted.
Around 30 people are suspected of involvement in the parliament violence. They include a father and son, who were charged with the attempted murder of MP Ziadin Sela from the Alliance for Albanians, who received the most serious injuries among 100 others. The two were placed under 30-day detention.
“An unprecedented scandal and a disgrace of the judiciary”, "Today's court decision confirms that the country is a hostage of the party [VMRO-DPMNE] and that the party is the organiser of the violent invasion in the parliament” some Macedonians expressed their anger in tweets on May 23.
SDSM spokesperson Petre Silegov said that the court ruling is further proof that the judiciary is under the control of its political opponents.
"Today’s verdict is an embarrassment and maybe one of the darkest days in the history of the Macedonian judiciary," Silegov said.
For ex-prosecutor Aleksandar Nakov, granting suspended sentences is a “scandalous decision”. He was quoted by Alsat-M as saying that footage from the parliament shows that many of those indicted committed more serious criminal acts than just participation in a mob. He also claimed that the judiciary is under the control of VMRO-DPMNE.
The SDSM stated again on May 23 that the footage indicated the violent incidents were caused by people close to VMRO-DPMNE. VMRO has previously denied any role in the events.
The Social Democrats, which were the runner-up in the December election, now is trying to form a new government with three ethnic Albanian parties.
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev has been invited by European Commission to participate in the informal prime ministers meeting of the six Western Balkan countries on May 24 as prime minister-designate, EC spokesperson Maja Kocinajcic has confirmed.
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