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News 29 Apr 15

New Data on Eavesdropping Aired in Macedonia

Social Democrats reveal new taped telephone conversations and alleged police documents of surveillance targets, which it says confirms its claims about massive illegal surveillance.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian opposition leader, Zoran Zaev | Photo by: AP / Boris Grdanoski

At its 27th press conference on the issue of illegal surveillance in Macedonia, the opposition Social Democrats on Tuesday presented what they claimed were secret police spreadsheets containing data about more than 20,000 eavesdropped persons.

“The data about the illegal surveillance originate from the existing communications surveillance system of the Secret Police, UBK... No foreign services [were involved], no surveillance vans, no espionage and no coup attempts", the opposition leader Zoran Zaev said, referring to the government’s claims that the tapes came into the opposition’s hands via outside intelligence agencies.

Journalists were handed samples of the lists that contain telephone numbers, alleged police aliases of the targeted persons as well as in some cases home addresses.  Zaev said the documents contain the names of the police operators tasked to follow their communications, which have not been published, but were handed last week to the prosecution together with all the rest of the material.

“We are talking about material of over 10,000 pages that has been handed to the Public Prosecution,” Zaev said, adding that the evidence cannot be treated as classified because of the nature of the surveillance that was conducted illegally.

The documents say that the police pseudonym for Zaev was “DS Zeko”. The former President of Macedonia and former opposition leader, Branko Crvenkovski, was tagged “Cross”. The current Transportation Minister was nicknamed “Tutin”, ruling party MP Silvana Boneva was tagged as “Bosli” , the editor-in-chief of the pro-government TV station Sitel, Dragan Pavlovic–Latas, was nicknamed “Talas” while the former Prime Minister and opposition leader, Vlado Buckovski, was “NDS Buva”.

Last week, the opposition gave the prosecution more than 100,000 transcripts of allegedly wiretapped conversations, more than 18,000 SMS messages in transcript, and more than 12.000 telephone numbers that were eavesdropped. They say more evidence will be submitted later.

At the same press conference, the opposition aired additional 13 telephone conversations that Zaev said “show how the government has been protecting the surveillance system that exists in the secret police”.

Several aired conversations between what seems to be Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska and parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski, as well as between Jankuloska and secret police chief Saso Mijalkov, refer to their attempts to prevent the adoption in 2012 of an article in the new Law on Surveillance of Communications, which would allow the opposition-run parliamentary commission for control over the work of the secret police to conduct unannounced checkups.

“We should first try and prevent them from coming at all,” Jankuloska’s voice tells Mijalkov, “We should keep it the way it is right now”.  As a last resort, both interlocutors agree that they should at least try to limit the number of announced visits to a few times per year. Jankuloska later explains to Veljanoski that if the commission is forced to schedule its visit, “You buy at least one day.”

According to the opposition chief, these conversations took place in September 2012, when the European Commission was pressing the authorities to adopt the Law on Communications Surveillance, which needed a two-third majority, and thus needed opposition votes. The law was adopted later that month.

Another tape contains the voice of secret police chief Mijalkov telling what appears to be the owner of the pro-government TV station, Kanal 5, Emil Stojmenov, that he will check out a person for him and that all he needs is a name and a telephone number.

Zaev said the opposition plans to stage mass protests in Skopje with the aim of toppling Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who has been in power for almost nine years.

“This scandal surpasses the US Watergate affair, which ended the Presidency of [Richard] Nixon. In Macedonia, three months after the opening of the affair, the bosses Gruevski and Mijalkov stay glued to their chairs that bring them money and power,” Zaev said.

The Social Democrats started releasing secretly recorded tapes of official conversations in February. It claims they show Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski orchestrated the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, adding that the material comes from sources in the Macedonian secret services.

Gruevski has insisted that the tapes were created by unnamed "foreign secret services" in collaboration with the opposition in order to destabilise the country.

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