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Former police minister and self-styled "political prisoner" Ljube Boskoski has appeared before a Skopje appeal court demanding an end to his seven-year jail term.
Ljube Boskoski in court
Boskoski has been in jail since last November when a court in Skopje jailed him for seven years.
He was found guilty of illegally financing his political campaign and of abusing his position as head of the small opposition party, United for Macedonia.
But Boskoski insists the case against him was politically orchestrated by the centre-right government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and has asked the appeal court to overturn the sentence and release him.
“I implore you to make a step for Macedonia and to grant my appeal. Annul my verdict and make Macedonia a country without political prisoners like me,” he told the court on Monday.
Police arrested Boskoski one day after last year’s June 5 general election in which his opposition right-wing United for Macedonia Party failed to win a single seat.
They said they had found €100,000 in cash in his posession after arresting him in a Skopje restaurant, which took place in front of TV cameras.
“I am imprisoned, crushed, humiliated,” Boskoski said before the appeal court, insisting that he was “a politician, not a criminal”.
During his two-month trial Boskoski pleaded not guilty to all charges. The defence disputed the key testimony of a protected witness of the prosecution, saying the witness might have been instructed about what to say and they had no way to check his assertions.
The defence also said the money found in Boskoski had been planted on him.
Boskoski’s party claims that he is being targeted for his harsh criticism of the government. During the election the former member of Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party accused Gruevski of institutionalizing crime and corruption in the country.
Boskoski was police minister from 2001 to 2002 during a short-lived but violent armed conflict between the security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents.
He was later acquitted of war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague.
The court in Skopje on Tuesday jailed Ljube Boskoski for seven years for illegally financing his political campaign and abusing his position as head of a small opposition party.
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