Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that he doesn’t expect anything to come out of the meeting between President Stevo Pendarovski and VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski, but that it is good to talk. Mickoski and Pendarovski are discussing VMRO’s demand for a retrial of the defendants in the April 27th case, which Zaev used to solidify power and blackmail members of Parliament into voting for the name change. Zaev insisted that Pendarovski doesn’t have authority to pardon the 16 defendants precisely because they were sentenced for the grossly outsized charge of “terrorism”, but that he would accept a retrial if there is some new evidence.
As in all other cases in this country, if there is new evidence that was not available before which strongly influences the possibility for a different decision, as in other cases a new trial can be opened, Zaev said.
The defendants, protesters and Interior Ministry officials including former Interior Minister Mitko Cavkov who investigated Zaev’s corruption scandals, were given sentences of a decade or decade and a half in prison.
Meanwhile, regarding the case of an actual terrorist, Zaev called on Kosovo to extradite Afrim Ismailovic, sentenced to life in prison for the 2012 Good Friday massacre. Ismailovic is one of the three Islamist gunmen who killed four Macedonian youngsters and one man, in an attempt to spark a religious war. He fled to Kosovo immediately after the murders, and only his brother remains to serve his sentence. Ismailovic was recently arrested in Kosovo for a traffic accident and faced an extradition procedure, but the court refused to allow his extradition to Macedonia. Zaev insisted that if extradited, he would face a fair trial.
Zaev personally intervened in 2017 to release Ismailovic’s brother and several accomplices from prison, and to arrange their retrial, when he claimed that he has new evidence that would throw a very different light on the massacre – implying involvement from officials of the previous Government. This conspiracy theory helped Zaev gain support among ethnic Albanians which supporter his rise to power, and it was only years later that he acknowledged that he has no new evidence to offer in the case. The retrial ended with renewed life sentences for the three gunmen.