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Ex-Macedonian PM ‘seeking political asylum’ in Hungary

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has reportedly fled to Hungary, where he said in a Facebook post he is “seeking political asylum,” days after he was set to begin a two-year prison sentence on corruption charges, according to news agency reports.

Nikola Gruevski (photo by Zoran Karapancev / Shutterstock.com)

Gruevski resigned as prime minister in 2016 after ten years in power, forced from office over a wire-tapping scandal. In May 2018, he was sentenced to two years in prison on corruption charges, having been found to have unlawfully influenced officials over the purchase of a luxury car.

The former premier was due to begin his term in prison from November 9, but failed to surrender himself to authorities. Macedonian police issued an arrest warrant on Monday, but it appears he may now have fled to Hungary.

On his Facebook page, Gruevski wrote that he fled the country after receiving “countless” threats against his life.

“I am in Budapest now and I am seeking political asylum from the authorities of Hungary,” his post said, according to news agency Reuters. An unnamed Macedonian police official told Reuters that Gruevski did not leave the country through a legal border crossing, and that they are still checking information about where he is.

The Interior Ministry of the Republic of Macedonia meanwhile said it has ascertained that Gruevski fled the country and is in Hungary seeking asylum.

Hungaryʼs Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has so far not confirmed whether Gruevski has applied for asylum, saying that he has no right to comment regarding individual asylum processes currently in progress, according to a report by online news portal 444.hu.

Regarding what appears to have been Gruevskiʼs illegal border crossing, MEP Judith Sargentini - author of the report that led to an Article 7 sanctions procedure being triggered against Hungary in September- wondered on her Twitter account how the Hungarian government will handle the case.

“The next question is: will the Hungarian authorities stick to their rules and send Gruevski to apply for asylum from the detention center, or will they dismiss his claim as he fled from a - according to them - safe country? Or none of the above?” - Sargentini tweeted.

Gruevski, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2016, is the former leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, Macedonianʼs main opposition party, allied politically with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, noted a report by Voice of America.