North Macedonia Court Jails Parliament Attackers

Skopje Criminal Court jailed 16 people involved in the 2017 mob attack on the country's legislature, including a former interior minister who was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

People stormed into the parliament in April 27, 2017. Photo: Robert Atanasovski

In a first-instance sentence that can be appealed, Skopje Criminal Court on Friday handed down severe jail sentences to 16 people who participated in the mob attack on parliament on April 27, 2017. One person was acquitted.

The court sentenced the former chief of uniformed police and former interior minister Mitko Cavkov to 18 years in jail for “terrorist endangerment of the constitutional order”.

Cackov and most of the other police and security employees on trial were accused of not reacting as they should have done in order to prevent the violent storming of the parliament building amid the country’s political crisis two years ago.

The attack happened as the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party desperately tried to stop the opposition Social Democrats from forming a government.

VMRO DPMNE supporters stormed the building only minutes after the new majority had elected a new speaker, paving the way for the election of Zoran Zaev’s new government, which eventually took office in May 2017.

Police employees Mitko Peshov and Dusko Lazarov were sentenced to 15 years in jail, while Oliver Popovski got 13 years.

Goran Gjoshevski, the former security chief to former parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski, got 15 years in jail.

Oliver Radulov, who was a security officer to the former secret police chief Vladimir Atanasovski, was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Intelligence employee Munir Pepic got 15 years in jail, while parliament security officer Abdulfetah Alimi got seven years in jail.

Of the other participants in the attack, Jane Cento, Vlatko Trajkovski, Nikola Mitrevski (alias Koljo) got 15 years, Vilijam Mihajlovski got 14 years, Mladen Dodevski, Gorance Angelovski and Igor Jug got 12 years and Aleksandar Vasilevski (alias Ninja) got eight years.

The court acquitted one of the leaders of the protesters who stormed parliament, opera singer Igor Durlovski, of all charges.

While some of the police and security employees insisted in court that they were innocent, most of the attackers who were involved in the violence said their actions were driven by emotion.

The trial, one of the biggest in the country’s recent history, began in August last year.

Initially, 33 people, including former senior police officials and opposition VMRO DPMNE MPs and supporters, were charged with “terrorist endangerment of national security” and with involvement in the violence in parliament in April 2017, when some 100 people were injured.

In December, however, parliament passed a much-disputed Amnesty Law that absolved 15 of the participants in the mob attack.

All five MPs who were initially charged were given an amnesty, including Krsto Mukoski and Saso Vasilevski, the two MPs who opened the parliament building’s main door, allowing the crowd in to storm the legislature.

Earlier this year the Organised Crime Prosecution added five more people to the list of suspected organisers of the attack on the legislature.

Former Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, who has fled to Hungary, former parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski, former transport minister Mile Janakieski, former labour minister Spiro Ristovski and former senior secret police employee Nikola Boskoski who is hiding in Greece, are now suspected as organisers.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic