Macedonian opposition leader charged in wiretapping scandal

Macedonian opposition leader Zoran Zaev and four other people were Friday charged over a wiretapping scandal that has seriously shaken the rule of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

Zaev was charged with “violence against top state officials”, while four other people were accused of espionage and wiretapping of government officials, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

If found guilty, Zaev, the leader of the main opposition Social Democratic party (SDSM), could face up to five years in jail.

A court has yet to confirm the indictments.

In January, the government filed a complaint against Zaev and several other people for espionage and violence against officials.

Zaev rejected the accusations, and instead claimed the government was wiretapping at least 20,000 people, including politicians, journalists and religious leaders.

He also accused Gruevski of accepting a 20 million euro ($22 million) bribe from Chinese firms to grant them motorway construction concessions.The stand-off has thrown the country deep in political crisis, prompting the European Union to express concern and to call for dialogue.

Zaev’s centre-left Social Democrats have been boycotting parliament for almost a year, alleging electoral fraud in April 2014 polls.

The opposition chief has called on the prime minister to resign, form an interim government and organise “fair and democratic” early elections.

Earlier this week Zaev said his party would organise a massive anti-government rally in May.

Gruevski’s party has ruled in coalition with the country’s main ethnic Albanian party since 2006.

The country has been governed in a delicate power-sharing arrangement between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians since the end of a seven-month conflict in 2001.

Macedonia obtained EU candidate status in 2005, but has yet to begin membership talks.

Source: The Punch