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Protests Rock Macedonia For Third Straight Night After Wiretap Pardons

  • RFE/RL

Antigovernment protests continued for the third consecutive night in Macedonia's capital on April 14 following President Gjorge Ivanov's decision this week to halt prosecutions of officials linked to a wiretapping scandal.

Several thousand demonstrators bearing banners proclaiming "No Justice, No Peace" protested in front of government buildings in Skopje demanding Ivanov's resignation and the freezing of preparations for early parliamentary elections scheduled for June 5.

Protesters clashed with police, throwing rocks and flares at officers guarding the seat of the ruling nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party.

Five police officers were struck by rocks and injured, while one demonstrator was detained, authorities said.

Protests turned violent a day earlier as well when demonstrators ransacked offices used by Ivanov's team and set fire to the furniture.

European Union officials and the U.S. State Department criticized Ivanov's decision and urged him to reconsider his amnesty of more than 50 officials.

Ivanov was defiant in an April 14 interview broadcast on national television, saying his primary motive in pardoning the officials is to put an end to the political crisis that has rattled the poor Balkan nation of 2 million.

"As president, it is my responsibility to end the crisis that has lasted for too long," Ivanov said.

Macedonia has been in turmoil since opposition leader Zoran Zaev accused then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of being behind the wiretapping of about 20,000 people -- including many politicians, journalists, and others in powerful positions.

Gruevski, a political ally of Ivanov's, denied the charges and accused Zaev of "spying" on the government and attempting to "destabilize" the country.

Zaev was later charged with attempting to overthrow the government and is now among those pardoned from prosecution.

Gruevski on April 14 distanced himself from Ivanov's amnesty. "It is against what we stand for. Those who have done something criminal should answer for it," he said.

An EU-brokered deal reached last year to try to end the crisis gave a special prosecutor, Katica Janeva, powers to investigate the wiretap revelations.

She said on April 14 that she would continue to investigate, including allegations of large-scale misappropriation of state funds.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Macedonian Unit, dpa, AP, AFP, and Reuters
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