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News 02 Feb 15

Macedonian 'Coup' Charges Alarm US, EU

Brussels and Washington have expressed concern over the charges filed against Macedonia's opposition leader Zoran Zaev, calling for the highest legal standards to be observed.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian government building | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The EU and US have urged Macedonia to follow due legal process following dramatic developments at the weekend when opposition leader Zoran Zaev was accused of attempting a coup.

Police have charged the Social Democrat leader with espionage and with making violent threats aimed at the government with the goal of undermining constitutional order.

"These are very serious charges and we recall the inalienable right for an independent and transparent investigation in case of any alleged wrongdoing, with full respect of the rights of the defendants in accordance with the law and international standards, including the principle of presumption of innocence," EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said.

"The EU also reiterates its concern about the deterioration in political dialogue in the country. Political parties must refrain from actions which would further undermine the situation," Kocijancic added.

The US embassy in Skopje said it had been "attentively following the latest developments related to the coup case", adding that legal standards need to be observed.

"We call upon the authorities to meet the highest standards on rule of law, transparency, protection of freedom of speech as well as legal independence during the process, in order to ensure the integrity of the democratic process in Macedonia," the embassy stated.

In a TV address on Saturday, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said Zaev had threatened to publish compromising data from conversations involving top state officials unless he agreed to the immediate formation of a caretaker government that would include his own Social Democratic Party, SDSM.

"I do not accept threats and blackmails and these kinds of set-ups. They will not pass," Gruevski said.

According to Gruevski, Zaev met him four times in late 2014 to discuss the matter, during which Zaev told him he had acquired the compromising material "from a foreign intelligence service".

Zaev has been ordered to remain in the country and his passport has been confiscated. Three others were detained in the same case, including the former secret police chief, Zoran Verusevski.

The former EU Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia, Carl Bildt, called the developments in Macedonia disturbing.

"Most worrying developments in Macedonia. Accusations of attempted coup seem far-fetched. EU must engage strongly to secure rule of law," Bildt tweeted.

Zaev has repeatedly threatened to reveal a so-called political “bomb”, which would shame Gruevski and force his government to resign.

He has since said that the charges against him will not prevent him from revealing his "bomb". He said that he had obtained evidence from secret services that the government has been spying on thousands of people among other matters.

Gruevski has promised a "public and transparent court procedure" and said he was willing to disclose further details about the case.

While some analysts see the charges as a government attempt to stop the imminent publication of compromising material, pro-government media have accused Zaev of treason.

The arrests and charges come after almost a year of an opposition boycott of parliament, which started after the March-April early general and presidential elections. The opposition accused Gruevski of winning through electoral fraud. Gruevski, who has been in power seince 2006, has dismissed the allegations.

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