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Hungary Reportedly Grants Gruevski Asylum; Macedonia Files Extradition Request


Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (left) welcomes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Ohrid in September 2017.

The Macedonian government says it has filed an extradition request for fugitive former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, amid reports Hungarian authorities have already granted him asylum.

Macedonia's Justice Ministry announced it had sent the extradition request to Hungary on November 20, after a Hungarian pro-government newspaper, Magyar Idok, reported that Gruevski was granted asylum because the authorities concluded that he would be at risk of political persecution if he returned to his homeland.

Gruevski, who escaped to Hungary earlier this month to avoid prison time, wrote on Facebook that Hungary "responded positively" to his request for obtaining political asylum due to what he called his "political persecution" in Macedonia.

He also said that if he went to prison in Macedonia, his life would have been in danger as he had heard about a plot to assassinate him.

Hungarian officials have not confirmed whether they granted the 48-year-old politician asylum.

Gruevski, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016, was sentenced in May to two years in prison for unlawfully influencing Interior Ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury vehicle valued at 600,000 euros ($680,000).

Facing jail after his appeal was rejected on November 9, Gruevski fled to Hungary, a European Union member, where he sought asylum.

On November 19, the Macedonian Foreign Ministry summoned Hungary's ambassador to Skopje to formally demand that the government in Budapest reject Gruevski's asylum application.

The Hungarian government was also urged to "act in the spirit of good bilateral relations and European values" to ensure the return of the former leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party.

In the past, Gruevski has indicated he was close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose government has formally denied having actively provided assistance in his escape.

In 2017, Orban offered his public backing to Gruevski during his campaign for municipal elections, in which his party lost to the ruling Social Democrats.

Gruevski is still facing three other trials, including over a major wiretapping scandal, and could be handed longer sentences than the one already given to him.

He claims the cases are politically motivated.

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