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News 31 Jan 15

Macedonia Opposition Leader Charged With Blackmail

After the Prime Minister on TV accused him of attempting a coup, Macedonia's opposition head, Zoran Zaev, has been charged with "blackmail and violence against state officials" and ordered to surrender his passport.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

 

Macedonia opposition leader, Zoran Zaev : Photo by: SDSM

The leader of Macedonia's main opposition Social Democratic Party, SDSM, has been ordered to remain in the country and his passport has been confiscated.

In a dramatic address carried on all main TV stations, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on Saturday accused Zoran Zaev of attempting a coup.

Charges filed against him include "blackmail and violence against top state officials".

Three other suspects, including the former secret police chief, Zoran Verusevski, who was arrested a week ago, have been placed in custody, the police said.

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

Zaev addressed the public in the evening. He rebuffed charges against him saying they will not prevent him from publishing the "bomb". He said that he has evidence obtained from domestic secret services that the government of Prime Minister has been spying on thousands of people.

"We will publish everything in the period that follows. Thousands of citizens have been a target. This is an unprecedented crime," Zaev said.

In the meantime, after the press of the Prime Minister, a crowd of government supporters gathered in the centre of town and moved toward the HQ of the opposition Social Democrats where they were stopped by police.

In the Prime Minister's TV address, he said that 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 the 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".

After listening to Zaev, Gruevski said he concluded that "some of it was true, some was partly true and some was not true. But the fact that some of it was true speaks of the fact that he acquired those materials illegally and against the constitution".

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

In its first response, the SDSM said that the arrest of their leader would not prevent them from publishing "evidence of Gruevski's crimes" and of his "corrupt and criminal dictatorship.

"This is an attempt of the ruling party to shut up the opposition and democratic citizens... It is high time the EU took rigorous measures against the Macedonian government to prevent the violence to the opposition and the citizens," the Social Democrats said.

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.

The latest events were "an attempt to intercept the imminent publication of material [from the opposition] after obviously unsuccessful negotiations," political analyst Suad Minini told BIRN.

He said he saw "traditional amateurism in the formulation of the charges" against Zaev, which he deemed "ridiculous" in general terms.

"On the other hand, Zaev should not have blackmailed Gruevski. He had a civil and a political responsibility to publish these materials without trading with Gruevski," Misini added.

Misini predicted further destabilization of the country, adding that the outcome would largely depend on the nature of the material that the opposition has obtained concerning Gruevski's government.

 

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