Protesters in Skopje are calling for a new trial and the freedom of more than a dozen former Conservative government officials.
Thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated in North Macedonian capital Skopje, demanding a new trial and the freedom of more than a dozen former conservative government officials convicted of their role in a popular invasion of parliament in 2017.
Sunday’s demonstration was organized by several civic associations and the families of those convicted and supported by the main conservative opposition party VMRO-DPMNE.
Protesters, many of whom were not wearing masks to protect themselves against the spread of the coronavirus, sang patriotic songs and asked the country’s Supreme Court to overturn the trial, saying it was politically fabricated.
They then marched peacefully from government offices to the Parliament building to demand the resignation of the left-wing cabinet and early elections.
‘Defense of crime’
The ruling Social Democrats criticized the protest, saying the opposition party “stands up for crime and criminals”.
In 2019, a criminal court sentenced 16 people, including former Interior Minister Mitko Cavkov, to seven to 18 years in prison in one of the largest trials since the country’s independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Cavkov was sentenced to the most severe sentence for “undermining constitutional order and security”.
Fifteen others were sentenced to terms ranging from seven to fifteen years for similar offenses, while one defendant – famous opera singer Igor Durlovsky – was acquitted.
The appeals court slightly reduced most of the sentences thereafter.
More than 100 people, including lawmakers and journalists, were injured in April 2017 when an angry mob stormed parliament and tried to block the election of a new president amid a crisis Politics.