A special prosecutor in Macedonia has charged more than 90 people, including former senior officials, in connection with a 2-year-old wiretap scandal that brought down the previous government.
Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva told reporters at a news conference in Skopje on June 29 that her office had filed charges against 94 people and seven legal entities in 17 cases.
She said the evidence would be handed to a court that would decide on filing indictments.
The small Balkan nation plunged into political turmoil in 2015, when opposition parties accused former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his counterintelligence chief of masterminding the wiretapping of more than 20,000 people.
The European Union brokered a deal to end the crisis, which included early elections and the appointment of a special prosecutor to probe the content of the wiretaps.
The crisis was the worst since Western diplomacy helped drag the country of 2.1 million people back from the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, promising it a path to membership in the European Union and NATO.
Janeva did not disclose the names of any of those charged, but said she was considering asking authorities to detain 18 people including a party leader.
Among those 18, according to Macedonian media, are Gruevski and former Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska.
Gruevski, leader of the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, dismissed the prosecutor’s allegations and accused the ruling Social Democrats of trying to destroy his party and Macedonia.
“This is a political, not a legal process,” Gruevski said at a news conference on June 29. “If they think the VMRO-DPMNE will take this lightly, they are deeply mistaken,” he warned.
Gruevski stepped down last year as part of the EU-brokered deal to allow early elections to take place, ending 10 years of VMRO-DPMNE rule.
In those snap elections in December 2016, the VMRO-DPMNE won 51 seats to the Social Democratic Union's 49.
Neither party was able to form a government without including parties representing ethnic Albanians, who make up about one-quarter of the population.
The VMRO-DPMNE tried but failed to form a coalition with Albanian parties. The Social Democrats, however, succeeded.
In February, Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev submitted to President Gjorge Ivanov the signatures of 18 deputies from ethnic Albanian parties, saying he had enough support to form a new government.
Nationalists, including VMRO-DPMNE, charge the coalition deal could divide the country along ethnic lines if more autonomy is given to ethnic Albanians.
The ethnic Albanian parties had made their support for Zaev's coalition government conditional on the enactment of a law backing broader use of their language in Macedonia.
Albanian is currently an official language only in areas where Albanians account for more than 20 percent of the population.