A court in North Macedonia has sentenced 16 people, including a former interior minister, to prison sentences of between seven and 18 years for their role in a violent attack on parliament in 2017.
The court sentenced ex-interior minister Mitko Cavkov to 18 years in prison after he was found guilty of “terrorist endangerment of the constitutional order and security.”
Fifteen others received sentences between seven and 15 years for similar offences, while one defendant was acquitted.
Scores were injured in the bloody rioting that erupted on April 27, 2017 when around 100 nationalist demonstrators, some of whom were wearing balaclavas, stormed the Skopje assembly attacking MPs in protest over the election of an ethnic Albanian as the new parliamentary speaker.
Cackov and most of the other police and security employees on trial were accused of failing to prevent the storming of the parliament building.
The parliament attack occurred as the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party led by Nikola Gruevski, which had ruled the country for almost a decade, tried to stop the opposition Social Democrats from forming a government with ethnic Albanian parties.
Initially, 33 people, including former senior police officials and MPs were charged with participating in the violence; however, 15 suspects were later pardoned as part of an amnesty deal with the government.
Among those pardoned were five VRMO-DPMNE MPs whose votes were needed to pass an historic agreement with neighbouring Greece to change the country’s name to North Macedonia, following a long-running dispute between the two countries.
Earlier this year five more people were added to the list of suspected organisers including former VMRO DPMNE Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who fled to Hungary in November 2018 to escape a two-year prison sentence for corruption.