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News 04 May 17

Macedonia Police Arrest Suspected Rioters in Parliament

While police arrest suspects behind last Thursday’s rampage in parliament, the former ruling party - whose supporters stormed the building - have accused the Interior Ministry of intimidating 'innocent' patriots.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Protesters in the Macedonian parliament. Photo: Anadoly

Macedonian police have apprehended 12 suspects in relation to Thursday’s rampage in parliament when more than 100 people including MP’s were injured. The Interior Ministry on Wednesday said a total of 20 suspects faced criminal charges so far.

Not revealing their full identities, the ministry said that more arrests and charges may follow if they identify more suspects from the security footage and from other available evidence.

The provisional Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu on Wednesday also said he had dismissed the head of the Public Safetey Bureau, Mitko Cavkov from his position at the police's crisis HQ tasked with dealing with emergency situations.

Nuhiu previously accused Cavkov for failing to respond to, or prevent, the violent protesters in parliament and for being unavailable for two hours during the rampage.

Cavkov, who is in charge of the country's entire uniformed police, denied Nuhiu's accusations that he was working under his VMRO DPMNE party's instructions during the rampage.

Nuhiu also said he had demanded Cavkov's dismissal from the post at the Public Safetey Bureau.

However, the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party - whose supporters stormed the parliament building - at a press conference on Wednesday condemned the arrests and charges, insisting that it was a “politically motivated” attempt to intimidate and hunt down “innocent people” whose only sin was defending their own country.

“The Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu bears responsibility [for this] because he cannot pressure [police] employees to intimidate and arrest innocent people against the procedures and the law,” VMRO DPMNE MP Dragan Danev told the press conference.

He insisted that some people had entered the parliament because they felt revolted by the illegal attempt to elect a new speaker, and by the “anti-state provocations” carried out by their political opponents, the Social Democrats, SDSM. Their actions “cannot be qualified as criminal acts”, he said.

MPs' attackers linked to VMRO DPMNE:

While authorities withhold the identities of the arrested, the Social Democrats, SDSM, who lead the new parliamentary majority, linked some of the attackers to the outgoing VMRO DPMNE party led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

Former and current police and army employees, allegedly convicted criminals and members of so-called patriotic associations have been named as participants in Thursday’s violence.

The SDSM pinpointed Dimce Hristoski – Zabata [Frog] from the town of Prilep, a former member of the now disbanded Lions police unit, as the direct attacker of SDSM leader Zoran Zaev.

The SDSM at a press conference has alleged that Hristovski is also a convicted killer who has served a jail sentence for a double murder that took placer in 2005 in Prilep.

BIRN was not able to confirm the SDSM alegations aboun none of the pinpointed persons.

SDSM footage showing Dimce Hristoski - Zabata whom they accuse for directly attacking SDSM leader Zoran Zaev [right]


The SDSM also pinpointed Dimitar Pecov, from Strumica, who is seen on video footage attacking SDSM vice-president Radmila Shekerinska.

Footage showing Dimitar Pecov atacking Radmila Shekerinska


Another screen shot shows Mitko Mihajlovski – Dzackata, who according to SDSM is a police employee close to the former secret police chief and Gruevski’s cousin, Saso Mijalkov. Video footage of the violence shows that he also tried to attack Zoran Zaev.

The big pictures show Mitko Mihajlovski – Dzackata in the parliament while the small picture shows him in the company of former secret police chief Saso Mijalkov.


The SDSM also displayed footage of a bearded person wearing a black T-shirt with Croatian Fascist “Ustasha” symbols, identifying him as Igor-Jug [South], a member of a recently formed so-called Macedonian patriotic association, “Vlado Georgiev Cernozemski”. They claimed he has been convicted for murder, drug dealing, rape and physical assault.

Igor-Jug shown during the parliament rampage plus a photo showing him in the company of VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski.


More pictures displayed by the SDSM showed more state employees and party activists close to the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, who the SDSM suspects were inside the parliament in an attempt to coordinate the attack on the MPs from the new majority.

The violence on Thursday began when a majority of 67 MPs in the 120-seat parliament elected a new speaker, Talat Xhaferi – a step towards the establishment of the new opposition-led coalition government.

Supporters of VMRO DPMNE stormed the parliament building almost unopposed by the police and rampaged there for several hour before police expelled them.

Macedonia has remained in political limbo since early elections on December 11 failed to resolve the long-standing crisis. Since then, it has not been possible to form a government.

President Ivanov and VMRO DPMNE insisted that a government led by Zaev’s Social Democrats would jeopardize the country's sovereignty because Zaev has accepted several demands set by ethnic Albanian parties, including a call for greater official use of Albanian.

The SDSM insists that VMRO DPMNE, which has led the government since 2006, is clinging to power mainly because its leaders fear standing trial for corruption.

Several senior party figures, including VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, are already facing criminal investigations and indictments from the Special Prosecution, SJO, which they in turn claim are politically motivated.

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