BFF-61 Former Macedonia PM says granted asylum in Hungary

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HUNGARY-MACEDONIA-POLITICS

Former Macedonia PM says granted asylum in Hungary

BUDAPEST, Nov 20, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Former Macedonian premier Nikola
Gruevski — who fled to Budapest after being sentenced to jail for abuse of
power — said Tuesday that he has been granted asylum by Hungary.

Hungary, a member of both EU and NATO, “accepted my request to be given
political asylum over political persecution” in Macedonia, Gruevski, who is
close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, wrote on his Facebook
account.

Gruevski arrived in Budapest a week ago.

Earlier in the day, a pro-government Hungarian daily, Magyar Idok, had also
said that Gruevski had been granted asylum. Neither the government nor the
Immigration and Asylum Office confirmed the report however.

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

Macedonia’s government denied the allegations, saying Gruevski never
reported any threats to his life and was not a victim of “political
persecution.”

“We conclude that Gruevksi’s only goal is to avoid justice,” the Balkan
government said in a statement that also called for his extradition.

Skopje had issued an international warrant for the politician’s arrest
after he failed to show up to begin a two-year jail term earlier this month.

Gruevski was convicted of using a 600,000-euro ($676,000) government
Mercedes for personal travel.

According to Magyar Idok, Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office decided
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. – ‘Special treatment’ –

It was via Facebook that 48-year-old Gruevski — who was the Macedonia
premier from 2006 to 2016 — announced last week that he had fled to the
Hungarian capital to seek asylum.

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 considered that 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 flee from Macedonia although
police in 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.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2325 hrs