North Macedonia seeks extradition of far-right politician in double murder case

North Macedonia seeks extradition of far-right politician in double murder case
Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski announces the arrest of murder suspect Ljupco Palevski-Palco in Turkey. Skopje is seeking his extradition. / North Macedonia interior ministry
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje December 6, 2023

North Macedonia's justice ministry said on December 6 that it will quickly finalise the extradition request for Ljupco Palevski-Palco, the prime suspect in the brutal murders of a 14-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man that shocked the nation. 

The motives for the killings are unclear, but Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski told a recent press conference that all the suspects are members of the extreme and pro-Russia party Desna (Right). He stressed the need to deregister the party, considering it a potential source of destabilisation.

The victims, Vanja Gjorchevska from Skopje and retired barber Panche Zhezhovski from Veles, were kidnapped and brutally murdered last month. Palevski, a former businessman and a leader of Desna, is now under arrest in Turkey.

The investigation unveiled a harrowing sequence of events: Vanja's abduction occurred at the entrance of a Skopje building on November 27, early in the morning as she left for school. She was then transported in the boot of a Citroen vehicle that belonged to the second victim. The subsequent killing took place outside Skopje, after which the vehicle was burned.

On December 3, the authorities discovered the bodies of both victims at different locations, before arresting five suspects.

Among those detained is the father of the young girl, due to concerns that he might have collaborated with the perpetrators in the kidnapping, potentially revealing crucial information about his daughter's location. The link between the two murders remains unclear at this point in the investigation.

Initially, authorities stated that kidnappers sought to extort money from the girl's mother. However, this attempt at extortion did not materialise, as the girl was killed several hours after being abducted. Police said the kidnappers could have panicked.

The Ministry of Justice has now initiated the extradition procedure, collecting essential information and documentation to secure Palevski's return to North Macedonia.

"We would like to inform you that the Ministry of Justice has formally requested the relevant Turkish authorities to detain Ljupco Palevski pending extradition proceedings. We anticipate swift action from the Republic of Turkey in response to our request," the ministry said

Spasovski revealed at a news conference late on December 5 that Palevski initially fled to Serbia on November 30, then crossed into Turkey via Bulgaria. His escape involved multiple vehicles, including a Skoda Superb and a Land Rover.

North Macedonia awaits his return to face charges related to the kidnapping and murder of the two victims.