One week after the public session ended, the Court of Appeal had not yet decided whether former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who was sentenced to two years in prison for the procurement of a luxury Mercedes, would end up behind bars, return the case to a retrial before the Criminal Court, or change the prison sentence.
Yesterday, one of the members of the trial council was not on duty for objective reasons, and the five-member council has not yet made a decision. The Court of Appeal said the member is supposed to return to work today, but cannot predict when a decision could be made. They are only categorical that yesterday the court did not make a decision and that it would be passed in the legal framework.
However, the Court of Appeal has no time limit for making a decision. “The deadline for deciding depends on the matter, what serious it is, how complicated, how much it needs to be studied, how many controversial moments it has, it is the position of the council sitting and it can hold session until the right decision is made. Once decided, the court has a deadline of sixty days to prepare the decision,” the Court of Appeals said.
Gruevski’s defense is also awaiting the court’s decision, because according to them, there were many substantive complaints that were confirmed not only by judges, lawyers and prosecutors, but also by professors of the Faculty of Law.
Their main argument is that the crime for receiving a prize for illegal influence Gruevski is charged with is outdated. Lawyer Sanja Aleksic, who is part of the team that defends the former prime minister, says the crime charged Gruevski is charged with is both absolutely and relatively outdated.
“Relative obsolescence is a timeframe in which a procedure must be initiated. For this crime, a prison sentence of one to three years is envisaged, and this means that the prosecutor should initiate a procedure within three years from the crime. The Special Prosecutor’s Office claims that Gruevski had asked for a vehicle to be procured, and if we follow that they are connecting this crime with a specific conversation they claim to have been on 26.02.2012, the moment when they were supposed to initiate the procedure was 26.02 .2015, when the SPO was not formed. The absolute deadline expired on 26.02.2018, six years after it was executed. Number six is obtained by doubling the highest prison sentence envisaged for this offense,” explained the lawyer.
The SPO prosecutor, Gavril Bubevski in a statement after the session said that he expected the decision to be made in five to six days.
According to Bubeski, it can not be argued that the crime was committed on February 26th, because then the telephone conversation occurred in which Gruevski ordered to procure the vehicle, but then there were several meetings and agreements between Gruevski and the former Minister of Interior Gordana Jankuloska. In addition, in the meantime, Gruevski has committed several more serious crimes for which court proceedings are pending, which can not cause the obsolescence of the first act.
The decision on whether Gruevski will be the first former prime minister to go to prison will be made by a five-member council headed by Judge Cvetanka Peric. Gruevski appeared before the Criminal Court yesterday, where a hearing for the ‘Titanic’ case, in which he is also charged, was scheduled.
He has not responded to journalist questions after Judge Dobrila Kacarska sentenced him to two years in prison. He only gave a statement for the media, without allowing questions from journalists, about the decision that the Appeal is expected to make. He argued the court’s decision was made prematurely and that the judges were under unprecedented pressure to put him in prison before the referendum to be held on September 30th. The former prime minister expects the court’s decision to be a prison sentence of less than a year, which would not allow him to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The decision of the Court of Appeal is considered final, although both parties have the right to extraordinary legal measures to the Supreme Court, but this does not preclude the execution of the decision.
If Gruevski is convicted, that is, if the Court of Appeal upholds the prison sentence, and after his lawyers are notified in writing, he will receive a court order within a period of three days to appear for serving the prison sentence. He has the right to request a delay indicating specific reasons.
The former Assistant Minister of the Interior Ministry, Gjoko Popovski, was sentenced to six years in prison for the procurement of the luxury Mercedes, who together with his lawyer only attended the session of the Appeal. Gordana Jankuloska, former Minister of Internal Affairs, is also being tried for abuse of office, but in separate procedure.
The ‘Titanic’ trial postponed due to illness of Martin Protugjer
Martin Protugjer, the former chief of staff, of the former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski fell ill and the trial for the Titanic case was postponed. His lawyer submitted medical documentation and explained that at two o’clock in the morning he was admitted to an emergency center.
The judge and the prosecutor did not show any doubt in the documentation. “We can all get sick, we are only human” said Judge Osman Sabani. At today’s hearing, the so-called “bombs” were to be heard connected to election irregularities, which the former leadership of VMRO-DPMNE was accused of.
They are suspected of criminal association, violation of the right to vote, violation of the voters’ freedom of election, bribery in elections and voting, destruction of electoral material and abuse of funds for financing election campaign in 2012.