Skopje Criminal Court today published the unprecedented letter US Ambassador Jess Baily sent to the court and to a number of other judicial institutions, in which he demands that the judges stop attributing their sentences or detention orders against VMRO-DPMNE officials to the Embassy.

I call on you on a matter which concerns me, and is related to the persistent, false reports that the US Embassy has set out a goal to influence judges. In the past weeks, my colleagues and I were told on multiple occasions that judges have allegedly attributed their decisions in on-going judicial cases, investigations and detention orders on “instructions from the Americans”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States support and favor independence of the Macedonian judiciary. We believe that judges should make decisions based on existing laws and admissible evidence, and not based on political estimates or intervention from individuals from politics or the Government. This is our consistent message we sent out both publicly and privately, Ambassador Baily writes in the letter to the Macedonian judges, whose Macedonian version was released today.

The remark about “admissible evidence” was widely commented on, given that many of court cases in which VMRO-DPMNE officials were sentenced or detained were based on wiretapping affair initiated by the SDSM party, and on unlawfully recorded phone conversations whose authenticity could not be proven. Within the same day when the public learnt about the existence of letter, the Special Prosecutors Office asked the court to release some of the leading political prisoners from detention.

As you know, our programs for mentorship were designed to advance professional skills and resistance of Macedonian judges so they would be able to withstand external pressure and make independent, sustained verdicts. Any suggestion that the United States wished to manage a judicial outcome are false. I’m deeply disturbed by these constant false rumors, given our dedication to independent judiciary. I ask you to share the content of this letter with your colleagues in order to help us disperse these false claims, and assure them that our position is and will remain the same – that they are independent in applying the law and that nothing but the facts and the law should affect their verdicts, Baily adds in his letter addressed to Criminal Court justice Ivan Dzolev, Justice Minister Renata Deskoska, Judicial Council president Zoran Karadzovski, Supreme Court president Jovo Vangelovski and Appeals Court justice Lidija Dimcevska.

Throughout the political crisis sparked by this scandal the US Embassy strongly and publicly pushed for accountability for the VMRO-DPMNE officials. US Embassy officers would frequently and publicly meet with prosecutors from the Special Prosecutors Office, sharing pictures which were interpreted as their open support for the work of this office, which was aimed almost exclusively against VMRO-DPMNE officials. US Ambassador Baily recently boasted how the United States “invested’ tens of millions of dollars in the Macedonian judiciary, and former Prime Minister and VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, who sought and received political asylum in Hungary, said that he was the victim of a campaign meant to remove him from office so that a new Prime Minister will be installed in order to rename Macedonia and have it admitted to NATO as soon as possible.

The letter caused a major scandal in the judiciary and further deepened the impression of its exposure to political and foreign pressure. Pressed on its contents in the Parliament, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who this year received leniency from the courts for a second time over a well established corruption charge against him, said that he is concerned and will raise the issue with outgoing Ambassador Baily as soon as he returns from his Christmas vacation and that his foreign policy adviser Dane Taleski was told to contact the US Embassy charge d’affairs. Zaev also said that the Judicial Council will probably make a decision on the claims.

If any such business was going on, the Judicial Council should point it out and assume responsibility. If not, the US should be on the clair that, through their first representative here, the US Ambassador, because through the Ambassador their entire country talks. That is a strong enough signal for us to take action and analyse what essentially caused this letter to be sent, said Zaev.

VMRO-DPMNE has declared the court cases initiated against its members and officials as political persecution. The party has pointed out Criminal Court judge Dobrila Kacarska and prosecutor Vilma Ruskoska as the chief perpetrators of this persecution, on top of the Special Prosecutors Office.