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The court in Skopje on Tuesday jailed Ljube Boskoski for seven years for illegally financing his political campaign and abusing his position as head of a small opposition party.
Boskoski was a top government critic during the June elections | Photo by: OM
Boskoski’s defence described the heavy sentence as absurd and the defendant said he would take the verdict to Strasbourg.
“I will ask for justice in the Court in Strasbourg, [the European Court for Human Rights],” was Boskoski's response on hearing the verdict.
During a two-month trial Boskoski pleaded not guilty to all charges and insisted that the case was politically motivated.
Police arrested Boskoski one day after the June 5 general election in which his opposition right-wing United for Macedonia Party failed to win a single seat.
They said they had found €100,000 in cash, in his posession after arresting him in a Skopje restaurant, which took place in front of TV cameras.
The court reached its verdict after hearing the closing arguments on November 18.
The key testimony, given by a protected witness for the prosecution, took place on November 16. The witness testified via a conference video call in a courtroom into which media were not allowed.
The defence did not accept the testimony, saying the witness might have been instructed about what to say and they had no way to check his assertions.
During the trial, Boskoski’s lawyer, Danco Nakov, told the court that he suspected the key protected witness was a police agent, and that the €100,000 that he had given to Boskoski on the day of his arrest came from the state budget, used in order to frame his client.
Boskoski’s party claims that he is being targeted for his harsh criticism of the government of Nikola Gruevski's ruling VMRO DPMNE party. During the election campaign the former VMRO member accused Gruevski of institutionalizing crime and corruption in the country.
In the final days of the campaign, Boskoski accused the Prime Minister of secretly purchasing a yacht in Croatia while trying to portray himself as a humble politician.
Boskoski’s wife, Violeta, looked shaken and distressed after hearing the verdict. “He fought for Macedonia and you sentenced him!” she shouted at the court.
Boskoski was a police minister from 2001 to 2002 during a short-lived but violent armed conflict between the security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents.
He was later acquitted of war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague.
Boskoski's friendship with Gruevski ended in 2009 when VMRO DPMNE failed to back his ambition to becoming president of the republic in the elections that year.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary group tasked with investigating whether police broke the law while eavesdropping on Boskoski prior to his arrest was formed last week after several delays caused by the failure of VMRO DPMNE to appoint a delegate to the group.
The court in Skopje on Friday heard the closing arguments in the trial of the former Police Minister, Ljube Boskoski. The verdict is expected next week.
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