By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, is due to show up before the country’s Special Prosecution, SJO, for questioning as part of an investigation into election fraud, unnamed sources from the prosecution told BIRN under condition of anonymity.
“His questioning was recently postponed on two occasions after he sent an excuse through his lawyers that he was unable to attend … due to his responsibilities,” the source said.
The SJO then sent a third invitation for this week, when Gruevski is expected to finally show up, the source said.
The last time Gruevski allegedly avoided questioning before the SJO was last Monday, when he gave the excuse that he would be traveling to Malta for a meeting of the European People’s Party, the main centre-right bloc in Strasbourg.
Although the congress in Malta was set for Wednesday, Gruevski left Macedonia two days earlier, on Monday, on the day he was supposed to appear at the SJO.
Gruevski’s right-wing VMRO DPMNE party strongly opposes the announced formation of an opposition-led government and is also hostile to the SJO, which it sees as biased against the party.
On February 28, the SJO widened its investigation into officials from the VMRO DPMNE party suspected of masterminding electoral fraud in 2013 in a case codenamed “Titanic”.
The SJO then said it had added 17 new people to its list of suspects in the case, including more former officials whose names were not officially revealed.
They are suspected of several offences, from criminal association to violation of electoral rights, violation of the freedom of voters, bribery during elections and voting, destruction of electoral materials and misuse of assets during election campaigns.
The “Titanic” case, which is one of the largest opened so far by the SJO, was launched in February 2016.
The original suspects were former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska and former transport Minister Mile Janakieski as well as other state office holders.
Meanwhile, reports say that the SJO in the past few days has been teaming with activities as more and more suspects from Gruevski’s party appear and testify about the same case.
Jankuloska and Janakieski are only some of those who have already appeared. Others recently questioned include vice-Prime Minister and Health Minister Nikola Todorov, the former government secretary general Kiril Bozinovski and the VMRO DPMNE MP Ilija Dimovski.
VMRO DPMNE, which has been in power since 2006, insists that both this case and other cases opened by the SJO are deliberately targeting the party’s officials in order to undermine its public reputation.
The SJO was formed back in 2015 as part of an EU-sponsored crisis deal between Macedonia’s main political parties and was tasked with investigating high-level crime.
The political crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that, as Prime Minister, Gruevski ordered the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including his own ministers.
The opposition Social Democrats started releasing batches of covertly recorded tapes in early 2015, insisting they contain much evidence of this and other high-level crimes.
Gruevski insists that the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.