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News 01 Dec 17

Macedonia Seeks 'Masterminds' Behind Rampage in Parliament

Further investigations into 36 suspects behind April's assault on parliament may uncover who planned and directed the rampage that left almost 100 people wounded, legal experts say.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Legal experts in Macedonia say an ongoing investigation into 36 terrorism suspects may shed light on the masterminds, if they exist, behind the mob attack on parliament on April 27.

“We will have a complete solution to this case only when we see action taken against those who instigated and masterminded this unfortunate event,” Jovo Trpenovski, a former Macedonian chief prosecutor, said.

He believes that while the persons brought before the courts on Tuesday were not the top players, they may reveal evidence about the identity of their superiors in the organization.

“They [the prosecution] have started with the most obvious [offences] which will be determined through the presentation of the evidence for the co-perpetrators. I think that in the next instance, evidence will be secured about the masterminds as well,” he said.

The Organised Crime Prosecution on Tuesday said the terrorism suspects included the former police chief, Mitko Cavkov, six MPs from the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party as well as other protest organizers and employees in the police and in other institutions.

They are accused of terrorism for “endangering the constitutional order and security, according to article 313 of the criminal law”, regarding their alleged involvement in the April rampage, which saw some 100 people injured, including ten PMs.

“It is obvious that this group did not enter the parliament and commit these acts on its own, and that hidden masterminds were behind it. That [identifying the masterminds] should be the first goal,” seasoned defence lawyer Aleksandar Tortevski said.

“It is good that the prosecution now has the opportunity to ‘negotiate’, so to speak, with some of the suspects, so that in exchange for milder sentences, they start speaking the truth and reveal the true order-givers,” Tortevski added.

VMRO DPMNE supporters stormed the parliament minutes after opposition MPs had elected Talat Xaferi, from the opposition ranks, as the new speaker. This in turn paved the way for the election of the new Social Democrat-led government that eventually took office in May.

The mob, which police ignored for some two hours, injured some 100 people, including the Social Democrats’ leader – now Prime Minister – Zoran Zaev. Another MP, Zijadin Sela, was brutally beaten and barely survived the attack.

The Social Democrats blamed the now ousted VMRO DPMNE party and its leader Nikola Gruevski for the assault.

Gruevski had refused to hand over power several months after the December 2016 general election, despite not being able to form a government.

The opposition said he orchestrated the attack in a desperate attempt to cause mayhem, which would result in the suspension of democracy and the proclamation of martial law.

During the violence, Gruevski was away in Vienna. Afterwards, he denied allegations having masterminded the action, insisting that what had happened was a spontaneous event provoked by the “illegal” election of a new speaker.

“The fact that someone was not present in the parliament that day does not amnesty him from responsibility, if evidence proves that he gave the orders,” law professor Besa Arifi told NOVA TV on Wednesday, commenting on Gruevski’s claim.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary group in charge of MPs' imunity on Thursday stripped the six MPs of their immunity on the request of the Skopje Criminal Court. This decision will have to be confirmed at a plenary session, which should take place soon.

Another hint, suggesting that the prosecution will not limit its investigation to the current suspects, came in information conveyed by Deutsche Welle on Thursday.

Citing unnamed sources close to the investigation, Deutsche Welle reported that police on Monday had seized the phones of the former speaker from VMRO DPMNE, Trajko Veljanoski, and that of another MP, Vesel Memedi.

According to the cited source, checks on their communications may reveal key evidence that could shed more light on the events of April 27.

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