North Macedonia: Four former leaders convicted of organizing an attack on parliament in 2017

Four former senior officials have been convicted of organizing the storming of North Macedonia’s parliament in 2017.

The former speaker of parliament, two former ministers and the country’s former intelligence chief were sentenced to up to six and a half years in prison on Monday.

Several parliamentarians from North Macedonia, including current Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, were brutally beaten when nationalist protesters stormed parliament in April 2017.

The protesters, supporters of former strongman Nikola Gruevski and his right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party, wanted to prevent the Social Democrats from forming a coalition government with Albanian minority groups.

The protesters demonstrated against the choice of a new speaker and accused the then opposition Socialist Party of threatening the national unity of North Macedonia.

On Monday, a Skopje court found that the four defendants had “organized and materially supported the mass demonstrations that culminated in a violent raid on parliament.”

Former Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski was found guilty of threatening constitutional order and sentenced to six and a half years in prison for his involvement in the violence. Before the takeover of parliament, he had deliberately prolonged the session to allow protesters to gather outside.

Former ministers Mile Janakievski and Spiro Ristovski were sentenced to six years and three months for leading the protesters.

Meanwhile, former secret service director Vladimir Atanasovski, accused of being a direct instigator of the violence and ordering a vehicle full of weapons to be parked in front of parliament, was sentenced to six years in prison.

Gruevski ruled North Macedonia with an iron for a decade before being brought down by a political crisis in 2016.

The former leader, who fled to Hungary in 2018 to escape a corruption charge, has also been accused of inciting the attack on parliament.

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