Nikola Gruevski, the former prime minister of Macedonia who has been sentenced for corruption in Macedonia before fleeing the country has been granted asylum in Hungary. The former nationalist leader, who fled Macedonia ten days ago with the help of the Hungarian authorities, announced made the announcement on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
“The Republic of Hungary, a member of the EU and NATO, has today accepted my request for political asylum due to political persecution in the Republic of Macedonia ,” writes Mr Gruevski, who was in power from 2006 to 2016. I argued that the government wanted to deprive me of my freedom by undemocratic means, by exploiting the Macedonian prosecutor’s office and judicial system.”
The Hungarian authorities have not commented, but the pro-government daily Magyar Idök said earlier that Budapest had responded favourably to Mr Gruevski’s request. According to the newspaper, the Immigration Authority, which in theory classifies Macedonia as a “safe” country, whose nationals are systematically rejected in the event of a request for asylum, agreed with his argument that his life was in danger in Macedonia.
“The convict Nikola Gruevski was under the protection of the police and he never reported any threat to his life,” the Macedonian government said in a statement.
Former boss of VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, 48, was sentenced on appeal in early November, for having received for his personal use a Mercedes worth 600,000 euros, paid for with public money. According to the judgement, Mr Gruevski had until 8 November to report to prison in Skopje. Right up until the last minute, he had tried to postpone the deadline, before disappearing.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Gruevski have long been close allies, and the refugee crisis of 2015, in which the Macedonian leader agreed to respond to the Austrian and Hungarian demands to close the border, consolidated this alliance.
In addition to his recent conviction, the former prime minister is still being prosecuted in five other cases involving corruption, abuse of power, electoral fraud and illegal eavesdropping. These scandals contributed to the electoral defeat of the nationalists at the end of 2016 and the coming to power of a coalition led by the social democrat Zoran Zaev.