Saturday, May 2, 2015

Macedonia Indicts Opposition Leader Who Denounced Graft

WARSAW — Macedonia’s main opposition leader has been formally indicted on charges of wiretapping and antigovernment activities after months of political turmoil, prosecutors said this week.
The leader of the left-wing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, was charged with “one continuous criminal act of unauthorized wiretapping and audio recording” as well as “violence against representatives of the highest authorities,” according to a statement posted on the state prosecutor’s website late Thursday.
The indictment came shortly after Mr. Zaev unveiled plans for a mass protest in the capital of the landlocked Balkan nation, Skopje, to be held this month — “the biggest one that the country has seen,” he said.
Macedonian politics have been rocked for months by Mr. Zaev’s release, bit by bit, of leaked transcripts of what he said were thousands of government-made recordings of conversations involving government officials and others. Mr. Zaev says they point to instances of corruption, vote-rigging and manipulation of the criminal justice system.
The leader of the left-wing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, recently unveiled plans for a mass protest in the capital, Skopje, in May. Credit Robert Atanasovski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Officials in the conservative government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski have said that while some of the recordings appear to be legitimate, others are fabricated.
Mr. Gruevski has blamed an unnamed foreign intelligence service for making the recordings and instigating the scandal. Officials from his party have labeled it an attempt to topple the government.
The scandal is a blow the image of Macedonia, a poor country on the southern fringe of the Balkans, which has been seeking to join the European Union and NATO.
Mr. Zaev said at a news conference in Skopje this week that the opposition had more than 100,000 transcripts of conversations and over 18,000 text messages from more than 12,000 telephone numbers, and that it would continue to make them public and share them with prosecutors.
Western leaders have become increasingly alarmed over what they say is growing authoritarianism in Macedonia. Diplomats from the United States and Germany, among others, have called in recent weeks for a thorough and transparent investigation of the scandal.
“There are serious allegations about government abuse of power,” Jess L. Baily, the United States’ ambassador to Macedonia, said in an interview with a local television station last week.
Mr. Zaev was placed under preliminary indictment in January, and his passport was confiscated. The formal announcement of the indictment shows that prosecutors believe they have amassed sufficient evidence to bring him to trial, a date for which will be set shortly.
While Mr. Zaev remained free after the preliminary indictment, several others, including employees of Macedonia’s Interior Ministry, were placed in pretrial detention and will remain there now that the indictments have been formalized.
Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting from London.

No comments: