Macedonia prosecutor to pursue wiretap probe despite Macedonian president granting amnesty for government and opposition figures
Macedonia's special prosecutor said on Thursday that she would continue investigating a wiretapping scandal, including alleged misappropriation of government funds, even though 56 officials were granted presidential amnesty.
Prosecutors said they had not been consulted about President Gjorge Ivanov's decision, which was first announced on Tuesday, to pardon prominent politicians claimed to be involved in the affair, including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and opposition leader Zoran Zaev.
"I am firmly convinced that justice will prevail. We will continue to work according to the law by which this office was established," said special prosecutor, Katica Janeva, who was appointed last year to investigate the scandal.
Janeva, speaking at a news conference attended by ambassadors from European Union countries, said her office had information that a large amount of money from the state budget had ended up in private pockets between 2008 and 2015.
Despite presidential pardons shielded 56 officials from being accused by prosecutors, Janeva said she would keep probing the case to find out whether wealth had been taken illegally and, if so, seek to confiscate it.
Ivanov's decision to pardon the government and opposition figures triggered protests at home and abroad. Demonstrators held a third night of protests in the capital, Skopje, on Thursday night.
Thousands of government and opposition supporters held separate rallies to protest at the pardoning of officials from the other side. Pro-opposition protesters briefly jostled police who blocked their way and threw stones at them but it was calmer than on Wednesday night.
Macedonia, a Balkan country of two million people - dealing with Europe's refugee crisis - has faced political turmoil since the opposition leader Zoran Zaev accused the former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief, Saso Mijalkov, in February last year of wiretapping of more than 20,000 people, as well as high-level corruption, and interference in the media and judiciary.
The opposition claimed the phone-taps exposed government control over journalists, judges, public sector recruitment and the manipulation of elections in Macedonia.
The government denied the allegations and accused the main opposition leader of spying and of trying to destabilise the country.
Under an EU-brokered deal reached last year to try to end the crisis, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the wiretap revelations and Gruevski agreed to an early election, expected in June.
Gruevski distanced himself on Thursday from Ivanov's amnesty. "It is against what we stand for. Those who have done something criminal should answer for it," he said.