Macedonia PM 'Agreed Amnesty for War Crimes Suspects'

The opposition Social Democrats presented covertly-recorded tapes on Monday that they said proved that PM Nikola Gruevski personally agreed an amnesty in the four war-crimes cases related to alleged atrocities committed by ethnic Albanians.

The Social Democrats' leader Zoran Zaev said Gruevski had made the deal as part of negotiations for the formation of a new government with an Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, after elections in 2011.

"This will tear off his [Gruevski's] favourite mask, the one of his patriotism," Zaev told a press conference, the opposition's 18th in recent weeks on the subject of government wiretapping.

The taped conversations purport to reveal how Gruevski first admits to his party colleague, MP Silvana Boneva, that he has just agreed an amnesty for the cases with DUI leader Ali Ahmeti and then instructs Boneva that the motion must be voted on in parliament "in one week's time", before the formation of the new government.

"I choose to deal with it now. We should deal with the negative stuff now," the Gruevski is apparently heard telling Boneva, adding that any ruling party statement on the amnesty must be tailored to sound suitably neutral and not damage his image as a patriot.

The four cases date back to the 2001 armed conflict between the Macedonian security forces and Albanian insurgents, whose leaders later formed the DUI party.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) took over jurisdiction of five war-crimes cases from Macedonia in 2002, the year after the conflict, but returned an indictment in only one.

The other four were sent back to Macedonia in 2008, and the public prosecutor's office initially said it would re-examine them.

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