Macedonian president says halting all probes into wire-tap scandal

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2016 11:04 AM

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said on Tuesday he was halting criminal proceedings against all politicians suspected of involvement in a wire-tap scandal that has caused a political crisis in the country.

"I have decided to put an end to this agony for Macedonia," Ivanov told reporters, announcing his decision to sign a decree bringing "a general halt to all proceedings against and among politicians" in connection with the scandal.

The Macedonian opposition last year released a slew of phone-taps that they said were made by allies of then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and that it said exposed government control over journalists, judges, public sector recruitment and the manipulation of elections.

Zoran Zaev, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, accused Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief, Saso Mijalkov of orchestrating the wire-tapping of more than 20,000 people.

Concerned about democracy in the EU candidate country, the European Union brokered a deal with Macedonia under which a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the revelations and Gruevski agreed to an early election, now expected to be held in June.

Gruevski and his VMRO-DPMNE party denied any wrongdoing.

The special prosecutor launched criminal proceedings in February against two former ministers on suspicion of intimidating voters.

Ivanov said the crisis had seriously damaged Macedonia.

"Politics turned itself into who will open more criminal proceedings or submit criminal charges against one another," he said. "The thing is so tangled up that nobody can untangle it."

Shortly before he made the wire-tapping allegations last year, Zaev was charged with conspiring with an unidentified foreign intelligence service to topple the government.

(Reporting by Kole Casule; Editing by Adrian Croft and Mark Heinrich)