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Macedonian Court Upholds Jail Term For Ex-Prime Minister

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski arrives at an appeals court in Skopje on October 5.

An appeals court in Macedonia has upheld a lower court's sentencing of former conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to two years in jail for unlawfully influencing officials over the purchase of a luxury bulletproof vehicle.

A court in May found that Gruevski, who led the government from 2006 to 2016, had put pressure on Interior Ministry officials in the 2012 purchase of his Mercedes at an estimated cost of 600,000 euros (around $700,000).

The appeals court said on October 5 that it found "the complaints of the accused... unfounded, and confirmed the first instance verdict in full."

Prosecutors said Gruevski has a two-week deadline to turn himself in to prison.

But the former premier told local media he would use "all legal means to fight the prison sentence."

Gruevski was convicted on the basis of evidence from audio material collected during a massive wiretapping scandal that erupted in 2015 and contributed to the fall of his government.

The wiretapping scandal ignited massive street protests, both for and against Gruevski's government, and led to early elections.

Following the vote, Social Democratic leader Zoran Zaev took over as prime minister in May last year.

Gruevski’s government denied responsibility for the wiretapping, blaming foreign spy agencies.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters