ISSN 2330-717X

North Macedonia Jails Former Spy Chief For Election Fraud

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The Criminal Court in Skopje on Friday sentenced former Secret Police Chief Saso Mijalkov to three years in jail for interfering with the 2013 municipal elections.

In the first-instance verdict that can be appealed, a court in North Macedonia jailed former intelligence agency chief Saso Mijalkov to three years in jail and the leader of the small opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, Menduh Thaci to three years and two months in prison for applying illegal influence and misuse of office.

The two were sentenced as part of a Special Prosecution case, codenamed “Titanic 2”, for making a deal during the 2013 local elections.

The agreement was to influence the decisions of the then members of the Electoral Commission, DIK, so that the vote for the post of mayor in the southeastern municipality of Strumica would be annulled and repeated.

Mijalkov was found guilty of “illegally influencing” the election, while Thaci was found guilty of “misuse of office”, along with several former members of the DIK.

Former DIK member Bedredin Ibrahimi received four-and-a-half years in jail, while former DIK members Aneta Stefanovska,Vlatko Sajkovski and Saso Srcev were sentenced to three years in jail.

The charges said Mijalkov illegally hatched an agreement with Thaci under which DIK members who were under Thaci’s influence would accept appeals against the election result in Strumica that the then ruling VMRO DPMNE party had submitted.

They resulted in the vote in Strumica being annulled, which gave a second chance to the VMRO DPMNE candidate, Vasil Pishev, who had lost the first round of the race.

In exchange, Mijalkov promised Thaci that DIK members under his own influence would support the same thing in the elections in the Skopje municipality of Cair, where the DPA candidate was at a disadvantage.

According to the then law, members of DIK were elected on the proposition of the main political parties.

Mijalkov and Thaci both pleaded not guilty in the case.

The Special Prosecution was set up in 2015 as part of an EU-sponsored political crisis agreement.

It was tasked with investigating high-level crimes that had come to light from the many wiretapped conversations released by the then opposition and now ruling Social Democratic Party, SDSM.

In one of the wiretaps, released in early 2015, Mijalkov, who was former prime minister Nikola Gruevski’s right hand during the 11-year rule of the VMRO DPMNE party, is heard discussing the trade-off with Thaci.

“You will vote [for the election in Strumica] to be annulled because we have an agreement on Cair, come on!” Mijalkov was heard telling Thaci.

This is the first verdict out of four active court cases against Mijalkov that the Special Prosecution has brought.

An ongoing SJO case, codenamed Target-Fortress, accuses Mijalkov of masterminding the massive illegal wiretapping of thousands of people, including ministers, judges, journalists, opposition members and many other top officials during the VMRO DPMNE era. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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