Macedonia’s opposition leader Zoran Zaev disclosed audio recordings, confirming long-standing allegations of a direct control of the governing party over the judiciary. This was the second file of evidence, released by SDUM, after last week’s revelation that Gruevski’s government has been phone-tapping 20,000 people, including reporters, religious leaders and political figures.
On Sunday, Zaev disclosed audio excerpts from five phone conversations involving former and present deputy prime minister, ministers of interior, justice and finance, as well as other high-ranking officials and their entourage. All contain evidence of government-arranged judicial and prosecutorial decisions; exchange of partisan and personal favors in return of rigged appointment and dismissal of judges, handpicking of Court Presidents and coordinated promotion of government-loyal judges.
In the first recording released, Minister of Interior Gordana Jankulovska and then Minister of Justice Mihajlo Manevski (both from the governing VMRO-DPMNE) arrange a judicial decision in favor of a brother of a Judicial Council member, deemed important for all future appointments and dismissals of judges. Both ministers state that they have “already arranged the decisions at the First Instance and Appellate Courts,” where both intervened as she (the member of the Judicial Council) is their “most valuable asset, without whom their hands in appointment and dismissal [of judges] are tied.”
The phone call confirms that PM Gruevski is also involved in the case, while the ministers complain that the Supreme Court President Jovo Vangelovski and the Parliamentary Speaker Trajko Veljanovski were using the Supreme Court to push the decision in the other direction, due to personal animosity of Veljanovski towards the defendant.
The second material relates to a conversation between Secret Police Chief Saso Mijalkov (VMRO-DPMNE) and then Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Framework Agreement Musa Xhaferi (DUI). The recording reveals that top government officials are bargaining for the position of Supreme Court President. Mijalkov is audibly enraged that the minority partner DUI has blocked the election of “their” candidate, insisting that DUI should be satisfied with “their” positions in the judicial institutions. Mijalkov says, “We will not discuss the [top positions] in the Supreme and Criminal Courts. You already have the [presidents of the] Basic Court in Skopje 2, the Administrative Court, the Ombudsman, and presidents of smaller courts in Eastern Macedonia, deputy presidents of the Supreme and Appellate Courts… I believe this is the best you’ve had so far.” In return for their consent to the election of the Supreme Court President, Mijalkov promises the employment of 25 ethnic Albanians. Xhaferi agrees to pass the message through to DUI President Ali Ahmeti.
The third recording gives an insight into the reasons why Public Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski has been silent for a week regarding the illegal phone-tapping of over 20,000 citizens of Macedonia. While at his previous position as Basic Public Prosecutor, Zvrlevski has taken and fulfilled orders from Minister of Interior Jankulovska. In a conversation between Jankulovska and minister of finance Zoran Stavreski (VMRO-DPMNE), she confirms that Zvrlevski has agreed to her demand to stop criminal investigation into Stavreski. Or, in her own words: “he said: the task that you gave me… it’s done”.
In the fourth recording Minister of Interior Jankulovska inquires with Prilep Mayor Marjan Risteski about the party affiliation and suitability of a judge in the Prilep court. “Can we count 100% on him? You know, guaranteed… In case we need him to step up on our behalf,” Jankulovska says. The judge apparently fulfilled party criteria and currently serves as Appellate Judge in the Court in Bitola.
The last recording of the day, proves how Editor-in-chief of pro-government TV Sitel, Dragan Pavlovic Latas has managed to obtain favorable court rulings over the years. In a conversation with then-Appellate Judge and wife of former Minister of Justice, Filimena Manevska, Latas complains that the Appellate Court dismissed three decisions ruled in his favor by the First Instance Court. Manevska finds this outrageous and inquires for details regarding the cases – names of presiding and council judges – committing to help.
As stated in our first Brief, the massive illegal wiretapping by the Government violated articles 17, 18 and 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, stipulating freedom and secrecy of communication, and guarantees to the privacy, dignity and honor of citizens.
Moreover, the content of the recordings show unambiguous violation of articles 8, 98 and 106 of the Constitution sanctioning the Rule of Law, separation of the legislative, executive and judicial branch of powers, and the independence of the judiciary and prosecution.
In his closing remarks, SDSM President Zaev reiterated that in view of the materials presented Rule of Law in Macedonia no longer exists and promised to bring an end to this state of lawlessness and selective justice.
SDSM will continue to disclose all materials at its disposal.