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News 28 Nov 17

Macedonia’s Former Ruling Party Protests Against MPs’ Arrests

Former prime minister and VMRO DPMNE party chief Nikola Gruevski led a protest against the arrests of 36 people, including his own MPs, who are suspected of involvement in violence in parliament in April.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
 VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski in front of the court building. Photo: MIA

Several hundred people led by Gruevski and other high-ranking VMRO DPMNE party members protested on Tuesday amid a heavy police presence in front of the Skopje Criminal Court, where the suspects who were arrested in the morning were taken before a judge.

“We demand the immediate release of all who were detained as part of this classic political persecution,” Gruevski told a press conference before joining the protest, insisting that the arrests were a direct attack on his political party and on Macedonian statehood.

“The state is at stake. This is no justice. The laws don’t apply any more. This is a captured state!” Gruevski shouted.

Police on Tuesday morning arrested former uniformed police chief Mitko Cavkov along with several other former police employees for their alleged involvement in violence in parliament on April 27 which continued for two hours without a proper police response.

Police also arrested VMRO DPMNE MPs Krsto Mukoski, Zaklina Stefanovska and Ljuben Arnaudov.

The organisers of the protests that led to the parliament violence were also detained, including a member of the VMRO DPMNE’s presidency, Bogdan Ilievski, the former head of the Macedonian Opera, Igor Durlovski, actor Vlado Jovanovski, film director Boris Damovski and the leader of a right-wing ‘patriotic’ organisation from the town of Veles, Goran Agelov, alias Kjoseto.

VMRO DPMNE MP and former war crimes convict Johan Tarculovski remains the only one of the 36 suspects who is still at large.

Macedonia’s prosecution meanwhile demanded that the court remand all 36 suspects in custody, accusing them of “terroristic endangerment of the constitutional order and security, according to article 313 of the Criminal Law”.

If found guilty, according to article 313, the suspects face jail sentences of a minimum ten years.

Meanwhile parliamentary speaker Talat Xhafer said that a parliamentary commission stands ready to convene should the court demands that the MPs who were arrested have their immunity from prosecution removed.

The court is expected to decide whether the suspects should stay in detention on Tuesday evening or on Wednesday.

Photo: MIA
Photo: MIA
Photo: MIA

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