Fleeing the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to avoid a two-year jail sentence for corruption, previous Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was granted asylum in Hungary, as a close friend of President Viktor Orban, whose office insisted the approval was not political.
In a Facebook post, Gruevski said he was a victim of political persecution by FYROM’s current Social Democrat government which has worked out a deal with Greece to be renamed North Macedonia and open the door for entry into NATO and beginning European Union accession talks.
“The courts and the prosecutor’s office have been turned into an instrument of political blackmail and calculated (attacks) against political opponents,” he wrote.
“Today in Macedonia, there are conditions of government repression, discrimination, persecution, politically-motivated arrests and full control by the government,” he added, using the name Macedonia that is recognized by 140 countries but not Greece, home of the abutting ancient province of the same name.
Authorities in Hungary did not immediately confirm he was granted asylum, the Associated Press reported, as FYROM had pushed for his extradition so he could be jailed.
FYROM’s Justice Ministry said the request noted that Gruevski is facing trial in at least three other corruption cases, including a major wiretapping scandal.
Orban has been strongly criticized for the special treatment Hungary has granted Gruevski, including reports Hungarian diplomats helped him escape in a car through several Balkan countries to get to Budapest.
FYROM opposition parties said Orban was siding with a “criminal,” and accused authorities of breaking Hungarian and international laws during the asylum procedure.