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article imageFive ex-top officials probed for 2017 Skopje violence

By AFP     Feb 20, 2019 in World

Five former senior officials, including an ex-premier and ministers, have been investigated for allegedly having plotted the 2017 attack on parliament in Skopje, judicial sources said Wednesday.

About 100 demonstrators stormed the Macedonian parliament that April 27, attacking MPs in protest over the election of an ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi as the new speaker.

The appointment of Xhaferi, an opposition candidate, paved the way for the election of an opposition-led government in the former Macedonia, which since last week has been renamed the Republic of North Macedonia following historic agreement with neighbouring Greece.

The parliament attack was a culmination of a post-election crisis in which the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party led by Nikola Gruevski, that had ruled the country for almost a decade, tried to stop a change of government.

During the violence several MPs were violently beaten, including SDSM leader, Zoran Zaev, who has since became prime minister.

The investigation indicates that "the suspects at the beginning of 2017 had prepared and implemented a plan with the intention of preventing the peaceful transfer of power," the prosecutor said in a statement.

"For this purpose, they organised and materially supported the mass protests that culminated with the violent entry into the parliament," the statement said.

According to judicial sources, who asked not to be named, among the five suspects are fugitive former prime minister Gruevski and an ex-intelligence officer, who is also abroad.

Ex-parliamentary speaker Trajko Veljanovski, who was briefly detained as a suspect but released under the immunity he enjoys as an MP, denied involvement.

"I am not an organiser, I was president of the parliament for 10 years, how can I be an organiser," Veljanovski told reporters after leaving the court building.

The sources confirmed to AFP local media reports that two former ministers were also investigated and arrested earlier Wednesday.

One-time strongman Gruevski, who is close to Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fled to Budapest in November 2018 to escape a two-year prison sentence, winning asylum there.

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