March 23, 2019
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16 sentenced to jail over role in Macedonia's 2017 parliamentary violence

Skopje, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- The Criminal Court of North Macedonia on Friday sentenced 16 people to jail over their roles in the violence that broke out in Parliament in 2017 when about 200 protesters poured into the building in response to the election of a new speaker.

Macedonian nationalists stormed the Parliament building on Apr. 27, 2017 following the election of ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi as the speaker of the Assembly.

"By watching the events live on TV this behavior was meant to cause a feeling of fear and insecurity of the citizens … that's terrorism," judge Dobrila Kacarska said Friday while reading the sentences.

"This event will become part of the dark history of the state," Kacarska added.

About 10 lawmakers were injured in the ensuing violence, among them Zoran Zaev, who at the time was a member of Parliament but who has since gone on to become the country's prime minister. He is the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party.

Among those convicted over the violence was the former chief of the state bureau of public security, Mitko Chavkov, who received an 18-year jail term.

The others, including police officers, members of civil organizations and citizens, got handed between seven-15 years in prison each.

The trial, which began in Aug. last year, was one of the most important in the modern history of the renamed Republic of North Macedonia.

Last month, former speaker of the Macedonian parliament Trajko Veljanovski was taken to court along with two ministers of the former center-right Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) government of Nikola Gruevski: Spiro Ristovski, the former education minister and Mile Janakieski, former transport minister, who are suspected of being involved in organizing the violence.

Ristovski was taken into preventative prison while Janakieski was being held under house arrest.

Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, in office between 2006-16, has in the meantime obtained political asylum in Hungary and was currently living in the capital Budapest.

The European Union condemned the violence that erupted in the Parliament building back in 2017.

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