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Hungary blocks extradition of fugitive former Macedonian leader

Budapest, Hungary – The Gruevski saga continues, as a Budapest court rejected the extradition request of North Macedonian authorities for its former Prime Minister, who’s facing corruption and graft charges in his home country.

On Thursday, the municipal court of Budapest ruled against the extradition of Nikola Gruevski, the former Prime Minister from 2006 to 2016, to North Macedonia. Judge Éva Várhegyi claimed an individual who was granted political asylum could not be extradited to the country he fled from.

A previous extradition request filed by the North Macedonian Ministry of Justice had already been rejected by Hungarian authorities.

Gruevski fled from North Macedonia in November 2018 and, after crossing Albania, Montenegro and Serbia, arrived in Hungary where he obtained asylum.

His flight and the decision of Hungarian authorities to grant him asylum in record-time had sparked outrage in North Macedonia and prompted criticism from EU partners.

Evidence further showed that Nikola Gruevski, a close ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, had fled North Macedonia and managed to make his way to Budapest with the help of Hungarian diplomats.

Nikola Gruevski is facing several charges in North Macedonia, but claims he came to Hungary to escape a political witch-hunt launched by his opponents, now in power. If extradited, he could face a two-year sentence in prison for illegally soliciting the secret purchase and fixing the public tender of a 600,000-euro armored limousine Mercedes back in 2012.

Other charges range from corruption to vote-rigging. North Macedonian authorities are also looking at his involvement in the April 2017 attack of the Parliament in Skopje, the capital, during which journalists and opposition MP’s were assaulted by supporters of Gruevki’s then ruling VMRO-DPMNE party.

Current North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev previously said that he expected “a country like Hungary to serve as an example, and not to protect criminals who harmed the citizens of Macedonia”.

“Allies should be treated with decency, and when they turn to us, they deserve decent treatment”, Viktor Orban said to address criticism, claiming the attacks against M. Gruevski were part of a wider Soros-led plan to destabilize North Macedonia.

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