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News 15 May 17

Macedonia Court Slated for Scrapping Detention Order

The decision of Macedonia's Supreme Court to scrap a detention order placed on a key ally of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has drawn strong criticism from legal experts.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Meri Jordanovska
BIRN
Skopje
 
 Sead Kocan. 

Sead Kocan, who has spent the last two month in hiding after being charged by the Special Prosecution, SJO, with falsifying documents to win a big coal extraction tender in 2011, has reportedly reappeared in Macedonia after the Supreme Court controversially scrapped his arrest and detention warrant.

Some media on Monday cited unconfirmed reports that Kocan was seen Sunday night seeking medical attention at the Skopje Clinical Centre, days after the Supreme Court on Friday scrapped his detention order.

"This is indeed the pinnacle of arrogance of an outgoing regime that is pulling all the strings, using cheap tricks to save itself from responsibility," a law professor at the South East European University, Besa Arifi, wrote on Monday for Nova TV.

She accused Supreme Court head Jovo Vangelovski of staging "legal acrobatics" to protect a key player in the outgoing regime of Nikola Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party from prosecution.

"In all of my career I do not recall the court annulling a detention warrant for a suspected fugitive," the former head of the Supreme Court, Dane Iliev, said, also criticizing the decision.

However, the recently appointed head of the Supreme Court, Vangelovski, who is seen as close to the former ruling party, defended the move, insisting that lower-instance courts issued the arrest and detention warrants for Kocan despite insufficient evidence.

The SJO sought detention for Kocan, who is the owner of the company Transmet and the national TV station NOVA in March, insisting that he might escape or influence other witnesses if left free.

Along with three other businessmen, he is suspected of falsifying documents in 2011 to win a 17-million-euros tender to extract coal from the Suvodol mine near the town of Bitola for the state power company, ELEM. The tender was awarded to the consortium he belonged to in 2012.

Previously, observers described Kocan as a potential key witness in untangling many other alleged crimes linked to the leadership of this party.

The decision, which came in late Friday, ahead of the weekend, surprised the public.

Other observers criticized it from a legal perspective, as the motion to scrap Kocan's detention did not came from the institution handling the case, in this case, the Special Prosecution, which was formed in 2015 under an EU-mediated deal and tasked with investigating high-level crime.

Instead, the motion came from the regular prosecution, led by Marko Zvrlevski, which has been also closely linked to VMRO DPMNE.

The controversy comes against a background of a slow transfer of power in Macedonia following the December 11 early election.

After the election, Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party, which has been in power since 2006, failed to renew its alliance with its old ethnic Albanian partner and form a new government.

VMRO DPMNE and President Gjorge Ivanov, who comes from the same party, the both blocked the formation of a new Social Democrat-led government since March, insisting that if the Social Democrats took power in alliance with ethnic Albanian parties, they would sacrifice Macedonia's integrity by conceding too much to the Albanians.

But, with a new speaker of parliament now in place, and after President Ivanov softened his opposition to the SDSM following the violence in parliament on April 27 caused by VMRO DPMNE supporters, most observers now expect the new government to be formed by the end of this month.

Last year's European Commission progress report on Macedonia deemed Macedonia a "captured" state with institutions operating under the influence of the ruling party.

Similar references to political influence in the Macedonian judiciary have been made in recent US annual reports on the country.

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