North Macedonia’s fugitive ex-PM Gruevski convicted for inciting mob attack in municipality building

North Macedonia’s fugitive ex-PM Gruevski convicted for inciting mob attack in municipality building
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje September 30, 2020

North Macedonia’s fugitive ex-PM Nikola Gruevski was sentenced by the first-instance court on September 29 to a year and a half in prison for inciting a mob attack in the building of Skopje municipality back in 2013.

Gruevski, who was tried in absentia, fled to Budapest in 2018 to avoid serving another prison sentence of two years for the purchase of a luxury Mercedes using state funds. He was granted asylum in Hungary.

Gruevski was charged with ordering an attack against the opposition mayor of Skopje’s Centar municipality, Andrej Zernovski, during a protest in 2013, shortly after Zernovski won the local election. The case was revealed through a series of illegally wiretapped conversations, which sparked a major scandal and plunged the country into a huge crisis when they were leaked.

"They [people in the municipality building] were harassed, severely insulted and their safety was endangered," the judge Dusan Josifovic said.

Indictments for violence were filed on September 15, 2016, against 14 people, of which five were indicted for inciting violence and nine for being direct perpetrators.

The second accused in the same case, former transport minister Mile Janakieski, received a suspended sentence of one year in prison. The other defendants also received suspended sentences.

Gruevski reacted in a Facebook post after the verdict of the Skopje court saying that the court decision was directly influenced by Social Democrat PM Zoran Zaev.

During the attack, the group, supposedly members of the then ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, gathered in front of the Centar municipality shortly after Zernovski won the local election and held a violent protest to prevent the municipal session, which had changes to the urban plan on the agenda, from taking place. One person was injured during the protest and the windows of the municipality building were broken.

Gruevski was a former leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party and prime minister from 2006 to 2016, one year before the Social Democrats came to power. He is also on trial on other corruption charges in North Macedonia.