Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who was due to start a two-year prison sentence for corruption on Friday, has fled to Hungary to seek political asylum citing threats on his life in Macedonia. Gruevski made the bombshell announcement on his Facebook page following days of speculation as to his whereabouts when he failed to show up at prison to begin his sentence following the rejection of his final appeal.
“In the last few days I have received countless threats on my life,” the former prime minister wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
“I’m in Budapest now, and I’ve asked for political asylum from Hungarian authorities.
“I will always remain faithful to the cause of Macedonia. I’ll never give up,” he added.
In May, Gruevski was found guilty of improperly influencing government officials to procure a 600,000 euro Mercedes with public money for his personal use. The former internal affairs minister and close associate of Gruevski, Gordana Jankulovska, was sentenced to six years in prison, while her assistant, Djoko Popovski, was sentenced to four years for his part in the scheme.
Gruevski (48), who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016, had submitted a flurry of last minute appeals and sought to have his sentence deferred, citing his parliamentary duties. However after “reviewing all the facts and evidence” in the case, a panel of judges at the Skopje criminal court on 9 November rejected his last ditch efforts to avoid prison.
A warrant was issued for his arrest on Monday following unsuccessful attempts by court clerks to locate Gruevski over the weekend to deliver the court’s decision.
Gruevski, who is still an opposition lawmaker, is embroiled in three other cases relating to corruption and abuse of power including allegations that he wiretapped thousands of Macedonian citizens. The revelations surrounding that case brought an end to his second term as prime minister in 2016.
He has denied all the charges and accuses the government of carrying out a political witch hunt against him.