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news 15 Feb 15

Macedonia Opposition: Transcripts Show ‘Staggering’ Interference in Courts

The Macedonian opposition has published a second batch of alleged wiretapped conversations, calling it shocking proof of government interference with the courts.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

 

SDSM head Zoran Zaev holding Macedonian Constitution at the press conferrence | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Five conversations were published on Sunday at a press conference of the opposition Social Democratic Party, SDSM, involving discussions between top state officials, judges and a pro-government news editor about the appointment of judges as well as court cases and prosecutors’ work.

The recordings provide a “clear example of direct breach of the executive power in the judiciary,” the SDSM head, Zoran Zaev, told the press conference.

Last week, the opposition accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the secret police chief, Saso Mijalkov, of eavesdropping on more than 20,000 people, and released what it said was the first batch of recordings in support of its allegation.

Zaev said that “all socially important people have been eavesdropped” and that the only people who were not recorded talking to each other were Nikola Gruevski and Saso Mijalkov.

The opposition said it would continue publishing more recordings that would unmask the real nature of Gruevski’s regime.

The first of the five audio recordings published on Sunday is a conversation between what is alleged to be Police Minister Gordana Jankuloska and the former Justice Minister, Mihajlo Manevski.

In the conversation, Jankuloska urges Manevski to resolve a request by Lina Petrovska, a member in the Judicial Council, which appoints judges, by influencing a Supreme Court verdict involving her brother.

“She [Petrovska] is our ace. Without her, we cannot appoint and dismiss judges,” a voice that the opposition identifies as Manevski’s says.

The two later say that Petrovska would be rewarded also with an arranged job for her daughter.

Petrovska was appointed to the Judicial Council as member in October 2007. The SDSM and the Liberal Democrats voted against her in parliament and accused the ruling majority of trying to establish control of the body.

Opposition says that the transcripts show ‘staggering’ Interference in courts | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The second recording involves a conversation allegedly featuring the secret police chief, Mijalkov and the Vice Prime Minister in charge for European Affairs, Musa Xhaferi, of the junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

Mijalkov appears to tell Xhaferi that the post of head of the Supreme Court has always been reserved for a judge appointed by the main ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, and the then Justice Minister, Blerim Bexheti, from the DUI, should not obstruct this.

Mijalkov appears to tell Xhaferi that the DUI already has enough influence in other courts and that “In December it’s been agreed to appoint 24 Albanians”.

The interlocutor keeps repeating that he first needs to consult his party chief, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti, about the matter.

The third recording is an alleged talk between Police Minister Gordana Jankuloska and Finance Minister Zoran Stavrevski.

Jankuloska appears to inform Stavrevski that she got word from chief prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski that certain criminal charges against Stavrevski had been dismissed to which Stavrevski conveys his gratitude to Zvrlevski through the Police Minister.

“I did not tell him [Zvrlevski] directly ‘to reject the charges’ but I told him to take a look and take care of it. He knows what that means,” the voice that the opposition claims belongs to Jankuloska says.

Stavrevski later asks whether he should file counter-charges against the party that charged him. Jankuloska says she will consult and let him know.

The conversation probably dates back to 2011, when Zvrlevski worked for the Skopje prosecutor’s office. That year, Transparency - Zero Corruption, an NGO, accused the government of illegally transferring money to political parties. It filed charges to the prosecution against the finance ministry, accusing it of allowing the transfers.

The prosecution did not open a case, however. In 2013, Zvrlevski was promoted to the post of chief state prosecutor.

Accourding to SDSM, secret police chief Saso Mijalkov [left] have been eavesdropping even on Police Minister Gordana Jankuloska [centre] Photo by: AP/Boris Grdanovski

The forth alleged conversation again involves Jankuloska, calling the mayor of Prilep, Marjan Risteski, a fellow party member, and asking him whether a certain judge is “100 per cent one of ours” [meaning under the control of VMRO DPMNE] and whether he deserves to be promoted to the Appeal Court.

Risteski replies that although the judge had “wandered a bit in the past with VMRO People’s Party”, a small rightist party, he could now be trusted.

The fifth and final conversation appears to be a talk between the editor at a pro-government TV station, Sitel TV, Dragan Pavlovic, and a prominent former Skopje Appeal Court judge, Filimena Manevska, wife of the former justice minister Mihajlo Manevski.

Pavlovic appears to be asking Manevska for favours over several court cases in which he is involved, to which Manevska seems willing to help.

The voice attributed to Pavlovic first complains to Manevska that several verdicts that were previously ruled in his favour have been rejected at the Court of Appeals. The male voice calls Manevska “Boss”.

“It might be a good idea if we sit for a coffee with that [female judge] from the Court of Appeals, just to get to know each other. All our verdicts for us in the past five or six months have been rejected at the Court of Appeals” the male voice says.

The female voice expresses astonishment. “What is the name of the judge?” she asks, apparently offering help.

Zaev told the press conference that the recordings were “staggering and gruesome.

“It now becomes perfectly clear why the prisons have been full of political prisoners, how court processes are being framed against journalists and against all who are not close to the government,” he said.

“It now becomes clear who is committing violence and ruining constitutional order in Macedonia. We will put an end to this kind of rule. We will continue [publishing material],” Zaev added. The opposition said the conversations were all recorded over the past few years.

Since the publication of the first material, Gruevski has not appeared in public to respond. Jankuloska and Stavreski have also remained silent.

Gruevski, who has been in power since 2006, previously called Zaev a foreign spy, but has not yet said for which country he allegedly worked. Gruevski has also accused Zaev of threatening him in order to seize power.

Zaev and several others are now charged with espionage and with threatening top state officials. Five people have been arrested in the case and Zaev has been ordered to hand over his passport.

DUI leader Ali Ahmeti, whose alleged voice appears on the previously published tapes, has said his party “won’t make any rushed decisions based on emotions” and has called for an internationally supervised process to deal with the scandal.

 

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