Tue, 11 Dec 2018
3
Vienna

SKOPJE -- Macedonian authorities detained two former government officials currently on trial for corruption, after ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski fled to Hungary to avoid serving a two-year prison term.

A court in Skopje on November 14 ordered former Transport Minister Mile Janakieski and former government Secretary-General Kiril Bozinovski to be held for 30 days after prosecutors expressed concerns they could also flee Macedonia.

The two former officials are on trial on charges that include corruption over public contracts and election fraud.

Gruevski, the former leader of the conservative main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, was sentenced in May to two years in prison for unlawfully influencing Interior Ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury vehicle at an estimated cost of 600,000 euros ($680,000).

Judges on November 9 rejected Gruevski's final appeal against his serving the sentence. However, the former prime minister disappeared before he could be imprisoned.

On November 13, Gruevski wrote on his Facebook page that he was in Hungary and was requesting political asylum, and the Macedonian authorities said they would issue an international arrest warrant and demand his extradition.

Hungarian government officials have refrained from comment on the matter.

Both Janakieski and Bozinovski condemned the escape of their former boss.

Gruevski, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016, is still facing three other corruption trials, including over a major wiretapping scandal, and could be handed longer sentences than the one already given to him.

Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva said Gruevski 'will surely be tried in absentia...this will not obstruct ongoing trials."

With reporting by Balkan Insight and AP RFE/RL's Balkan Service

RFE/RL's Balkan Service promotes the values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in a region where genuine media freedom remains elusive and where many media outlets remain divided along ethnic lines.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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