Former Prime Minister and VMRO leader Nikola Gruevski responded to the arrest of former Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski and ministers Mile Janakieski and Spiro Ristovski, and the latest round of charges against himself, this time for “terrorist endangerment of the constitutional order”. Gruevski, who received political asylum in Hungary, says that this is continuation of the political persecution against VMRO perpetrated by the Zoran Zaev Government.

I’ve been charged with purchasing an armored vehicle for foreign dignitaries. I was absurdly charged with wanting to see the Kicevo – Ohrid highway completed as soon as possible. It was not enough for them to charge me with allegedly ordering an attack on people where nobody was attacked, that I ordered the demolition of a building which the court found to be built unlawfully, that I illegally funded my party based on the testimony of one witness. All these allegations are fake and now they want to charge me with non-existent terrorism, Gruevski wrote on his Facebook account from exile.

Despite the fact that he has political asylum, prosecutors said that they will demand his extradition from Hungary on this count as well. The prosecutors also detained Janakieski and Ristovski and are demanding that Trajko Veljanoski, who was deposed as Parliament Speaker as result of the incident in the Parliament, now has his immunity lifted and is detained as well.

Gruevski claims that the latest round of arrests comes as the result of the inability of this “incompetent, undemocratic, puppet Government” to conceal its failures and to distract from its harming of “Macedonian state and national interests, its own corruption and nepotism”.

This is why they stage unjust trials and arrest their political opponents, organizing these fake spectacles, which will permanently remain as a shameful episode in our history. I will say it again, I’ve never organized or approved a violent assault on the Parliament and attacks on members of Parliament. I was the first who called for calm, from Vienna, where I was staying on that day. I call on the prosecutors to publicly disclose all evidence against me they claim to have so we can determine to what extent the charges are based on the testimonies of witnesses who are either irrelevant or blackmailed to say the things they say, Gruevski writes.

The incident began after two months of peaceful daily protests against the push by SDSM and its DUI partner party to remove Veljanoski and appoint a new Speaker. This violated SDSM’s pre-election promises that the party will not agree to make major concessions both to Greece on the name dispute and to the ethnic Albanian parties on a series of issues, as well as the unwritten rule that the winning Macedonian party (VMRO) should form a coalition with the winning Albanian party. Protesters opposed the coalition which would, for the first time in Macedonian history since independence, form a Government that was not the choice of the majority of ethnic Macedonians and once SDSM and DUI staged an irregular vote to elect former Albanian guerrilla commander Talat Xhaferi as Speaker, some of the protesters entered the building, attacking several SDSM members of Parliament and Ziadin Sela from the Alliance of Albanians who was previously making inflamatory statements against ethnic Macedonians. Some of the attackers were masked, prompting speculations that they may have been planted in the group by outside actors.

In his comments Gruevski says that he not only didn’t organize the incident, but that he was worried against a staged incident which would be used to frame VMRO members of Parliament activists. The trial of “terrorism” that began in late 2017 was used to blackmail half a dozen of VMRO members of Parliament with long prison sentences, and three of them eventually broke and joined Zoran Zaev’s majority in Parliament and voted to rename Macedonia into North Macedonia in exchange for amnesty.

I call on the prosecutors not to use the usual excuses that the “investigation is pending” or that it is a secret investigation. This is not an ordinary case, this is a case which the entire public is carefully following. Any potential witness has already been questioned and those who may have fled, has already fled. Reveal all the evidence against me. I know you have nothing on me, and on the other suspects. If all you have is that I have supported peaceful protests, then that would be grounds to detain all politicians in the country – all of them have at some point supported peaceful protests. Arrest the entire people as well – all of them have been out protesting for one thing or another.

Much of the latest expansion of this “terrorism” case appears to rest on the testimony of Aleksandar Vasilevski – Ninja, who claimed before the court that VMRO officials were coordinating the protests and the incident in the Parliament. After his testimony, protest organizers said that “Ninja” was blackmailed by the prosecutors to give a false testimony.