Former Macedonia PM sentenced to jail for abuse of power says he has been awarded asylum in Hungary

BUDAPEST (AFP) – Former Macedonian premier Nikola Gruevski – who fled to Budapest after being sentenced to jail for abuse of power – said on Tuesday (Nov 20) that he has been granted asylum by Hungary.

Hungary, a member of both EU and Nato, “today accepted my request to be given political asylum over political persecution” in Macedonia, Gruevski, who is close to Orban, wrote on his Facebook account, a week after fleeing to the Hungarian capital.

Earlier, a Hungarian daily close to Orban, Magyar Idok, had said that Gruevski had been given asylum, but neither the government nor the Immigration and Asylum Office had confirmed the information.

Gruevski – who has said he received death threats in Macedonia – wrote on Facebook that the government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev “wanted to rob me of my freedom by using non-democratic steps and methods and misusing prosecuting and judicial systems.”

Skopje had issued an international warrant for his arrest after he failed to show up for his two-year jail term.

According to Magyar Idok, Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office had decided that Gruevski met the legal conditions for recognition as a refugee.

“The body considers Gruevski’s fears that his life would be in danger in his homeland to be plausible,” the newspaper wrote.

It was via Facebook that 48-year-old Gruevski – who was prime minister of the Balkan country between 2006 and 2016 – announced last week that he had fled to the Hungarian capital.

“I am now in Budapest, where I have requested political asylum from the Hungarian authorities,” he wrote at the time.

Calling on Budapest not to grant his request, Macedonian premier Zoran Zaev had urged Hungary to “respect international practice, international law” and not provide “a refuge shelter for criminals”.

But Budapest had said Gruevski’s long tenure as premier justified “special treatment”.

“The Immigration Office concluded that if Gruevski returned home, his political past and stance, as well as accusations made against him by the new government, could make him subject to official persecution,” the daily Magyar Idok said.

Budapest has denied that it helped Gruevski escape from Macedonia although police in both Albania and Montenegro say Hungarian diplomats helped drive him to Serbia on his way to Hungary.

Gruevski’s diplomatic and personal passports had been seized by the Macedonian authorities. Gruevski reached Hungary only using his personal identity document and was allowed a one-time entry, said Magyar Idok.

Orban’s ruling party Fidesz has said that Gruevski was “persecuted and threatened by a left-wing government, which clearly has the support of George Soros”.

Both Gruevski and Orban have accused the Hungarian-US billionaire of stoking illegal immigration, claims that Soros denies.

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