Macedonian MPs have voted to offer amnesty to defendants on trial for taking part in last year’s attack on Parliament so long as they weren’t charged with organising it or personally committing any acts of violence. According to previous media reports, this is likely to apply to about 10 out of 33 defendants. All 95 MPs who were present at Tuesday’s session in Macedonia’s 120-seat parliament voted in favour of the controversial amnesty legislation.
The law was supported by opposition VMRO-DPMNE MPs, several of whom will benefit from the amnesty as they stand accused of storming the parliament building with the aim of preventing the current Social Democrat government from assuming power. The amnesty is part of a political quid pro quo offered by the government to the opposition in return for the necessary VMRO-DPMNE votes to pass the agreement signed with Greece on changing Macedonia’s name.
Critics have accused Prime Minister Zaev of compromising Macedonia’s rule of law by offering any amnesty, but he says he is willing “to pay a political price” to see the name deal through as it will finally allow Macedonia to join NATO and open talks on membership with the EU.
Zaev’s government has also stressed the limited nature of the amnesty, which excludes “the organisers and those who prepared the events of April 27 , persons who committed physical violence, persons who were wearing masks to cover their faces and who committed violence, persons who were carrying weapons and official persons who overstepped their professional authorization”, according to deputy parliamentary speaker Frosina Remenski, as reported by Balkan Insight.
Earlier this month a key witness on trial for participating in the attack alleged that was orchestrated directly from VMRO-DPMNE party headquarters. According to Aleksandar Vasilevski, who is facing charges of “terrorist endangering of national security” it was directed by a command structure based on the eighth floor of the VMRO-DPMNE headquarters in Skopje. Furthermore Vasilevski, alleged that the group was comprised of, among others, the former government secretary general Kiril Bozinovski, former uniformed police chief Mitko Cavkov, former deputy justice minister Biljana Briskovska, and former transport Minister Mile Janakieski.