An unusual morning scene in the Budapest Court. Former Prime Minister Gruevski with his trademark sunglasses Maybach and a baseball hat, as if he was on a beach in Tel Aviv, entered the courtroom, accompanied by police officers in civilian attire, where they decided on the request of the North Macedonian authorities for his extradition. Handcuffed, but covering his cuffed wrists with a coat, for a moment caused different fantasies and speculation that something strange was happening. Although there are several charges against him and a two-year prison sentence in our country, the public has never seen him in handcuffs before. What could this mean now? The dilemma was solved very quickly. The thirty-minutes-long court hearing that was closed to the public, with a dose of spectacle for the wider masses, ended with a decision not to extradite the fugitive to his homeland.
Judge Eva Varhegyi rejected the extradition request of the North Macedonian Ministry of Justice, as well as the international arrest warrant, and as an explanation she stated that persons who fled from one country cannot be extradited to that same country. She, according to Hungarian media outlets, said that “the fugitive status is an obstacle to any further returning and extradition, and this is in accordance with Hungary’s asylum laws”.
Gruevski was arrested on a request for extradition submitted by the Ministry of Justice over the latest case in which he is suspected of organizing the violent events on April 27, after having already submitted one such request for the “Tank” case, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison. Gruevski refused to respond to reproters’ questions. Reporters asked him why he was remaining silent, how he was financed in Hungary, and whether he received funds from the Hungarian budget.
But later on he made an announcement from his comfort zone – his Facebook account, and explained to the public what the hearing was about. According to him, it was a standard procedure of the institutions in Hungary that was carried out after, as he wrote, the criminal and racketeering government in Macedonia filed an extradition request.
“The court reviewed the request for extradition and decided not to accept it,” wrote Gruevski.
In Hungary, Gruevski has the status of a political fugitive. Foreign media say that many things indicate that he has protection by the government of Viktor Orban. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto recently admitted that he regularly met with Gruevski in his cabinet.
“I regularly meet with Gruevski, and I will continue to meet with him in the future,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjarto said of the criticism directed at him by the opposition according to which “Gruevski’s asylum is embarrassing for Hungary” in a debate in the Parliament in Budapest two weeks ago.
MP Agnes Vadai criticized Prime Minister Szijjarto after information was published in the Hungarian media that Gruevski was meeting with Hungarian diplomats in apartments owned by Chinese in Budapest, and among them that he also met with the deputy state secretary in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry.
“If we want to get the most authentic information about what is happening in the Western Balkans, how the processes are moving there, there is no better source for that than the man who was a prime minister in that region for 10 years,” said PM Szijjarto.
“And yes, we are constantly talking to him. It does not matter where and how we do it. For example, I often talk to him in my office at the ministry. We will continue to communicate with him in the future, and I will continue to consult with him for the Western Balkans in the future. And let me tell you something else, dear colleagues, Nikola Gruevski supports the Euro-Atlantic integration of his country,” said Szijjarto, who was recently on an official visit to Skopje.
After meeting with Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bujar Osmani, he also confirmed that he met with fugitive Gruevski, but did not say what they were talking about, and what information he received from Gruevski and whether that information was useful to the Hungarian government.
“For someone who has been prime minister in this region for 10 years, I suppose that he has a very good knowledge and understanding of the region, and I am not authorized to reveal any parts of our discussions, but I can tell you that your former prime minister is also very committed to your accession to the EU”.
He said that he considered Gruevski’s stay in Hungary as a legal issue and according to him, there was nothing to do with his country’s foreign policy. “Today I am standing before you and I am proving our full support for your EU membership,” said Szijjarto.
A domestic arrest warrant has been also issued for Gruevski. The head of the Prosecutor’s Office against organized crime and corruption, Vilma Ruskoska, revealed last month that, despite the requests sent by the prosecution with full documentation, Interpol refuses to issue a warrant for Gruevski, who fled on November 11th, and through Albania, Montenegro and Serbia with the help Hungarian diplomats, arrived to Hungary, where he was expressly granted political asylum. In the meantime, he also published a book.
Gruevski part of the debate over the new government
Asylum seeker Nikola Gruevski was also a topic in the North Macedonian Parliament, where day two of the debate over the government reshuffle was taking place yesterday.
SDSM MP Kostadin Kostadinov, while holding a photo of Gruevski from the court in Budapest, told the VMRO-DPMNE MPs that they will not take office until they have distanced themselves from Gruevski.
– Until you distance yourselves from this man in handcuffs, hat and sunglasses in a court in Budapest, until you distance yourselves from this man who still gives you directions how to act through his mouth and eyes called Hristijan Mickoski, you will not come to power. Citizens do not want to see such another VMRO-DPMNE that will be the chief editor of the news and police in the Ministry of Interior, who will be the number one judge and rig court proceedings. Citizens will not allow this – said Kostadinov.
The coordinator of the VMRO-DPMNE Parliamentary Group, Nikola Micevski, reacted to this by saying that SDSM had lost a lot of votes in the last presidential elections.