Zaev: I finally proved my innocence

Happy to be acquitted, finally proving my innocence and getting justice, said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after Monday’s judgment in case dubbed Bribe.

Zaev said Macedonia can be a normal country only if there is independent judiciary and transparent procedures, such as the one in case Bribe.

He urged institutions in possession of the recording obtained through special investigative measures, which was pivotal in the case, to release it in full.

“The recording has been cut in three places, during the conversations we had about cement, concrete, salaries etc. Everything I did in Strumica was transparent and available for the public. I urged businessmen to be a model for the community and donate for the church construction,” Zaev told reporters.

Earlier in the day, judge Darko Todorovski acquitted Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in the case.

While reading the judgment, the trial judge said the public prosecutor has not proved that the defendant committed the crime, resulting in an acquittal.

At the last hearing, prosecutor Valentina Bislimovska asked for a change of the indictment qualification from “receiving a bribe” into “asking for a bribe”, which stipulates a sentence of 1-5 years in prison. In comparison, the penalty for crime “receiving a bribe” is at least five years imprisonment.

Bislimovska said the evidence presented during the main hearing did not show that defendant Zaev received any money, which has been confirmed by the main witness Ivan Nikolov.

Zaev has said the case is politically motivated, aimed at preventing the release of the wiretapped conversations.

PM Zaev, in the capacity Strumica mayor, is charged of asking a EUR 160,000 bribe from a Strumica businessman for the privatisation of construction land.