Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of the conservative nationalist VMRO DPMNE and the country’s secret police chief have been accused of ordering a massive wire-tapping on more than 20,000 people by opposition leader Zoran Zaev (Social Democratic Union, SDSM). Zaev claimed he can support this accusation with tons of material which are in his possession. According to Zaev, the Prime Minister has continually received daily reports on his political opponents by the secret services. The opposition has released some audio materials and transcripts that consist of phone conversations between Zaev and his fellow colleagues, and even a phone call with his young daughter.
The disclosure comes after Prime Minister Gruevski publicly accused SDSM Zaev of ‘’espionage’’ and ‘’violence towards high-level officials’’ and allegedly plotting a coup. Zaev already announced the disclosure last week after he was accused by Gruevski. The Prime Minister was not yet available for comments, but this major accusation might just put the heads of him, and of those responsible on the block.
The targets of the wire-tapping include Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s own associates, senior politicians, opposition leaders, NGO activists, journalists, businessmen, academics, religious leaders, members of the judiciary and others. Zaev even mentioned that Gruevski had wiretapped President Gjorge Ivanov.
The person who was in charge of executing the wire-tapping is Saso Mijalkov, the counter-intelligence chief of Gruevski. Zaev claims that "Gruevski and several people around him are behind this operation. The material we have shows that illegal wire-tapping was under direct orders from Saso Mijalkov. This kind of massive wire-tapping can be done only by a domestic service." Gruevski said that Zaev had threatened to use anti-government intelligence gathered with the help of a foreign spy service. Zaev responded to this by denying the charges and claiming that Gruevski was afraid for the publication of the evidence he possessed.
Gruevski’s party, VMRO DPMNE, has denied the charges of the large-scale wiretapping saying it is nonsensical and contradictory. They call Zoran Zaev ‘’a puppet of foreign services’’ and that he had whipped up the wiretapping scandal as part of a ‘’created scenario in the interest of a third party that does not want any good for Macedonia’’. In a press release, the VMRO DPME state that Zaev ‘’wants to take the entire Macedonian public, including his fellow party members, hostage; and that he wants to keep the public blackmailed and defocused from real issues and from people’s needs’’.
The State Ombudsman Ixhet Mehmeti has responded that the accusation of widespread wiretapping is ‘’frightening, and that it could hold ‘’severe’’ consequences for the future of Macedonia. He stated: “This is a ruthless breach of fundamental human rights and I strongly condemn this happening, no matter whether it involves eavesdropping on public figures or on ordinary citizens.”
Last week, the state prosecutor told the media not to publish any material related to Zaev, threatening with lawsuits if they do, as it might in the future be classified as part of his criminal investigation. This statement goes against the Macedonian constitution. After the press conference held by Zaev to reveal the wire-tapping scandal, no national mainstream TV broadcasters showed the press conference or any of the published materials by Zaev.
It seems like the scandal in Macedonian politics keeps spreading as more allegations will be published in the upcoming period. Zaev has said his party will continue leaking taped conversations, containing talks about criminal activities, and the rigging of elections. The accusations clearly demonstrate that we have not yet seen the end of the scandal. The weakening of media freedom, fundamental rights in general, and the rule of law in EU candidate Macedonia, are reflected in this scandal.
By Elske Idzenga