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Human rights activists warn of procedural breaches during Monday’s spectacular arrest of top government critic Ljube Boskoski, while his party blames the government for political retaliation.
A court in Skopje earlier this week ordered 30 days detention for Boskoski, who is charged with taking cash payments from undisclosed donors and misusing his office as party head.
Boskoski’s rightist United for Macedonia party, meanwhile, argue their leader was detained because of his harsh criticism of the government of PM Nikola Gruevski during the campaign that ended just before Sunday's early general election.
“The members of the party are stunned by Boskoski’s arrest. This is a clear misuse of the state for political retaliation against opponents,” said Nikola Pop Iliev, the head of the party’s election staff.
Boskoski was arrested just one day after Sunday’s poll, in which his party did not manage to win a single seat in the parliament.
During the election campaign, Boskoski who was once a member of the ruling party, harshly attacked Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski for institutionalized 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 back home.
Boskoski’s party said that his arrest won’t prevent them from disclosing other scandals linked to Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE.
The police, however, maintain that they have hard evidence for Boskoski’s incrimination. They say they have video and audio recordings to support the charges. According to the law, a political party must deal all of its finances through a bank account.
Meanwhile, human rights activist and former head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Mirjana Najcevska, points to procedural breaches made during the arrest.
A video of the arrest was recorded and released by the police, and shows Boskoski in handcuffs and the contents of a paper bag, including dozens of one hundred euro banknotes, spilled onto the parking lott.
“The only apparent thing is that this case is aimed at sending a message to the all political opponents that they may easily end up behind bars,” Najcevska says.
She says that the video shows police used excessive force during Boskoski's apprehension by employing heavily armed masked policemen usually used when arresting highly dangerous criminals, not politicians.
Najcevska also notes that the officer on the police video footage does not wear gloves while securing the evidence material uncovered from Boskoski’s car.
“The police inconsiderately broke the law in several ways and are not even trying to hide it,” Najcevska says. “One gets the impression that they don't expect they will be called to responsibility and this is the most worrying thing,” Najvcevska said.
Tanja Karakamiseva a professor at Skopje's Faculty of Law, warns that the murky financing of political parties is a wide spread practice in Macedonia.
“But the fight against it should be persuasive and non-selective. The law should be equal for all,” Karakamiseva told Wednesday’s edition of Dnevnik daily.
After two decades of independence, and just weeks before the June 5 elections, Macedonia has finally located its pivotal point.
On June 5 Macedonians will vote for 123 legislators in six electoral districts. Three of the legislators will be elected from the diaspora, which is allowed to vote for the first time. More than 1.7 million people are eligible to vote.
1,821,122 million people out of some 2.2 million Macedonians are eligible to vote in the June 5 general election. The clickable map shows the top candidates for the Macedonia 2011 early elections by electoral region.
During the country’s 20 years of post-independence history past elections were often marred by significant controversies and allegations of fraud. As the June elections approach, doubt remains whether the friction between the two parties will allow for polls that meet international standards.
The main political players are divided into two ethnic blocs. Macedonians traditionally choose the party that forms the government. The Albanian camp produces its own champion, which is then usualy asked to join the government as a junior partner.