Mon, 17 Dec 2018
35
Hartford

Macedonia's Interior Ministry says it will seek the arrest of conservative former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on an international warrant after confirming he fled to Hungary to avoid serving a two-year prison sentence for corruption.

The ministry reacted almost five hours after Gruevski wrote on Facebook that he was in Budapest as police continued searches in the capital, Skopje, to try and locate him.

His Facebook post said that he was asking for political asylum.

'In the last few days, I have received countless threats on my life,' it said. 'I am in Budapest now, and I have requested political asylum from the Hungarian authorities.'

Reuters quoted a Macedonian police official as saying that Gruevski did not leave the country 'through a legal border crossing' and that the authorities had no information on his whereabouts.

A Hungarian government spokesman would neither confirm nor deny Gruevski's remarks.

'We cannot provide information on ongoing asylum procedures until their completion,' the spokesman said in an e-mailed response to an RFE/RL query.

Macedonian police have issued an arrest warrant for Gruevski, who has been convicted and sentenced to two years in prison on corruption-related charges.

The Interior Ministry said the domestic arrest warrant was replaced with an international one, adding that it informed judicial authorities that it had confirmation that Gruevski was in Hungary.

Judges on November 9 rejected Gruevski's final appeal against his serving the sentence.

The former leader of the conservative main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE 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).

But court clerks have tried in vain to locate Gruevski and personally serve him the order to present himself at the prison.

A spokesman for the opposition nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party told Reuters he had no information about Gruevski's whereabouts.

Gruevski, 48, was prime minister from 2006 to 2016. He is the former leader of VMRO-DPMNE, which claims he is being politically persecuted.

He 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.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service and Reuters 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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