Gruevski and Zaev in company with colleagues from Cambodia and Singapore
Politicians often strike back with threats of lawsuits and trials, but cases in which a PM sues an opposition leader are rare. There are such examples in Singapore judiciary and courts in Cambodia
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Due to consideration and study of additional evidence, Primary Court Skopje 2 delayed the start of the trial of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski against Zoran Zaev, SDSM leader
“I am innocent. Even young children already know whose voice it is on the tape, who had arranged the sale of “Macedonian Bank”. Therefore I expect the court to carefully consider the evidence in the trial and the proceedings and to be fair”, said SDSM leader Zoran Zaev after the first hearing of the trial in which Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is suing him for defamation in connection with the sale of “Macedonian Bank” to the controversial Serbian businessman Jovica Stefanovic-Nini.
The reason for the postponement of the trial is that Zaev’s team of lawyers submitted additional evidence to the court (an expert report of a Serbian licensed agency) that would prove that the SDSM leader had not slandered Prime Minister Gruevski. Six lawyers who defend Zaev also asked the preparatory hearing to be halted until the criminal proceedings end before the Prosecution of Organized Crime, to whom SDSM submitted a criminal complaint against, as they claim, a crime worth 1.5 million Euros in the sale of “Macedonian Bank”.
The representative of Prime Minister, attorney Nikola Dodovski, however, told the court that the civil and criminal proceedings were two different things and asked for the trial to proceed after the court reviewed new evidence.
After this, the court, due to the sheer volume of new evidence, did not accept the request of Zaev’s defense to stop the procedure, but decided to delay the start of the preparatory hearing for 3rd July.
PERSONAL ISSUE WITH POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
Political analysts say that this trial is not different from all other where parties to the proceedings are politicians, regardless of the fact that in this case the plaintiff is Prime Minister and the sued is the leader of the largest opposition party.
“Although it is about a defense of political integrity, this is a personal issue among the Prime Minister who is suing the leader of the opposition party. However, even in such case the process will certainly have political implications for the simple reason that both parties to the proceedings are politicians. If it is not so, then everyone can say what he wants”, says analyst Vladimir Bozhinovski.
The decision of the court to schedule the hearing just at a time when new Government is elected in the Parliament was criticized by the NGO Transparency International (TI-Macedonia).
“In the world there is not a court case against a citizen accused of slander and defamation, and he was the one who reported a case of corruption. Such is the case here with the affair “Macedonian Bank” in which the citizen who publicly discloses suspected corruption or it is announced by a party, is accused of defamation.
And state judicial institutions ignored the Anti-Corruption Law in the part that says that you cannot take a criminal prosecution or some other responsibility to a person who revealed data indicating the existence of corruption. A person is entitled to compensation for damages that may be suffered by him or a member of his family because of the statement and testimony”, says Sladjana Taseva, president of “TI-Macedonia” talking about the shortcomings of the draft law amending the Anti-Corruption Law.
“Gruevski against Zaev” first case in Europe
Other politicians around the world also sue for various reasons, however, claims for defamation and slander between a prime minister and a leader of the opposition are rare, and the case “Gruevski against Zaev” is the first in Europe.
Recently Liberal International at its official web – site reported that the leader of the opposition in Cambodia, MP Mu Sochua lost the defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The court in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh ruled that Sochua from the main opposition party of Sam Rainsy was guilty of falsely accusing PM Sen of insulting her. This was the reason why the PM decided to return with a counter-lawsuit which ended in favor of the Prime Minister.
“It was a foregone conclusion. I am not surprised, I am just sad – sad because the people of Cambodia continue to live in a country where there is justice only for those with money and power. The decision is politically motivated and not taken on the basis of laws”, said Sochua after sentencing.
The Cambodian Court of Appeals upheld the decision and the opposition party of Sam Rainsy came out in response that the court ignored the principles of fair trial and blindly adhered to the decision of the First Instance Court. There were reactions of concern by the International community and the United Nations (UN).
In the annals of world politics and the Singapore judiciary the court case will be remembered in which former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong sued the then leader of the opposition Labor Party, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam for defamation when the head of the main opposition party in Singapore at a rally in front of a crowd “presented Tong’s Government at its worst”. The Prime Minister asked for damages of $200,000, and Jeyaretnam’s defense assessed it as political retribution and good opportunity for the opposition leader to bankrupt and be removed by the Parliament. Besides the Prime Minister, Jeyaretnamwas also sued by eleven senior officials of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) for slander that the police had prepared two reports against senior officials of PAP, among which were the eleven plaintiffs.
The leader of the opposition SDSM Zoran Zaev in April this year accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of personally selling “Macedonian Bank” AD Skopje to the controversial Serb businessman Jovica Stefanovic-Nini.
“The bank was sold through four offshore and two domestic companies that formally owned 51 percent stake in “Macedonian Bank” and were under Gruevski’s control. These shares were sold to Boss Nini”, said Zaev.
Gruevski stroke back at the accusations with a lawsuit seeking from Zaev half a million Euros in damages over allegations of crime in the sale of “Macedonian Bank”. Next hearing is scheduled for 3rd July this year.