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News 23 May 17

Video Shows MPs Aiding Macedonia Parliament Assailants

MPs from the former ruling VMRO-DPMNE party opened parliament's main gate, allowing their supporters to enter the building and cause the bloody rampage in the building on April 27, newly released security camera footage shows.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The video, captured by security cameras inside the Macedonian parliament shows Krsto Mukoski and Saso Vasilevski, two MPs from the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party, removing the security bars from the main gate just seconds before the crowd of angry VMRO-DPMNE supporters enter parliament going on to attack their bitter political opponents.

Mukoski, Vasilevski, and several of their other colleagues from VMRO-DPMNE can also be seen coordinating the crowd with hand gestures, directing its members to the press room where the new majority had been holding a press conference, and where the most vicious attacks on MPs and journalists took place.

The violence in parliament began just after 6pm local time on April 27 when a majority of 67 MPs in the 120-seat parliament elected the new parliamentary speaker, Talat Xhaferi – widely regarded as the next step towards the establishment of the new SDSM-led coalition government.

VMRO-DPMNE, which has been trying to avoid losing power by preventing the election of a new speaker for the past month, complained that the move was unlawful and called it an “attempted coup.”

Violent protesters, including people wearing black hoods whom some suspect of being police officers, were allowed to rampage inside the parliament for about two hours, virtually unopposed by the riot police, injuring some 100 people, including ten of their colleagues from the new majority.

MPs deny responsibility

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev [centre] was injured by the protesters. Photo: Anadolu Agency

Despite footage clearly showing the two MPs removing the security block from the main gates, they insist that subsequent reports are nothing but speculation.

“I have not opened the parliament door. It is true that I was in the entrance hall but is that forbidden? I saw the footage and I do not see how a conclusion can be made that I opened the door. It is all speculation, the investigation will show who did it,” Mukoski told Deutsche Welle on Tuesday.

Vasilevski also denied helping to open the doors and helping the violent attackers. He said that he did not see the footage.

“I cannot comment via phone about anything. I haven't seen anything. To be honest, I know nothing. I have not coordinated anything and I have not worked against the people and against the country,” Vasilevski told Telma TV on Monday when asked to comment on the footage.

  Macedonia Parliament Attackers Sentenced to Probation
  Skopje Criminal Court on Tuesday handed probation sentences to nine participants in the April 27 violence in parliament.

In an express trial they were sentenced for “participation in a violent crowd” despite legal experts previously stating that the charges being brought against them were too mild and could even be part of a plan to prevent them from ever standing trial for more serious offences.

The longest probationary period – five years – was given to Dimce Hristovski – Zabata [Frog] who was seen on a video footage attacking SDSM leader Zoran Zaev. If he repeats the offence, he could serve between six months and one year in jail.

Before the sentences were issued, the lawyer for the defense insisted that the nine were aware of their wrongdoings and that they regret their actions.

The same video shows that five more MPs from the VMRO-DPMNE-led alliance were present in the main parliament hall that evening, minutes before and after angry protesters entered the building.

While Mukoski and Vasilevski can clearly be seen opening the gate, others can be seen hugging some of the protesters and later directing the crowd towards the press room where the newly elected parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi and Prime Minister-designate, Zoran Zaev were holding a press conference.

Macedonian police confirmed to local media that it had sent all footage from the security cameras to the public prosecution right from the start. However, the prosecution has thus far failed to explain why it has not called any of the MPs seen in the video for questioning.

Alsat M TV and by Telma TV aired for the footage for the first time on Monday evening, causing a public stir and further fueling suspicions that the violence in parliament was nor random but rather a coordinated attempt on their livelihoods.

Several people have accused VMRO DPMNE of orchestrating the entire attack. VMRO DPMNE has denied such claims insisting the attacks were spontaneous.

Zaev who is head of the Social Democrats, SDSM, was seriously injured during the rampage, sustaining cuts to his head.  MP Zijadin Sela, who is also part of the new majority, was injured the most. He was knocked unconscious by heavy blows and later seen with his head covered in blood being dragged around by protesters, whom he suspects left him for dead.

The MPs who got attacked, as well as observers, criticized the prosecution for trying to downplay the severity of the event, accusing it of pinpointing thus far only certain individuals: direct perpetrators and police officers on duty who did not react.

That night was seen as the turning point in the Macedonian crisis, as just two days after the violence, under heavy international pressure, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, from VMRO DPMNE ranks, softened his resistance to Zaev and subsequently awarded him the mandate to form the new government.

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