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North Macedonia: Four ex-leaders convicted of organising 2017 attack on parliament

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By Euronews with AFP
Scores of protesters broke through a police cordon and entered Macedonian parliament in April 2017.
Scores of protesters broke through a police cordon and entered Macedonian parliament in April 2017.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski
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Four former senior officials have been convicted of organising the storming of North Macedonia's parliament in 2017.

The former President of the parliament, two former ministers, and the country's former intelligence chief were sentenced to up to six-and-a-half years in prison on Monday.

Several North Macedonian MPs, including current prime minister Zoran Zaev, were severely beaten when nationalist protesters stormed the parliament in April 2017.

The demonstrators -- supporters of former strongman Nikola Gruevski and his right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party -- wanted to prevent the Social Democrats from forming a coalition government with Albanian minority groups.

Protesters rallied against the election of a new speaker and accused the then-opposition Socialist party of threatening North Macedonia's national unity.

On Monday, a court in Skopje found that the four defendants had "organised and materially supported the mass demonstrations that culminated in a violent break-in in parliament".

Former parliamentary speaker Trajko Veljanoski was convicted of threatening the constitutional order and sentenced to six and a half years in prison for his role in the violence. Before the storming of parliament, he had deliberately prolonged the session to allow protesters to gather outside.

Ex-ministers Mile Janakievski and Spiro Ristovski were sentenced to six years and three months for directing the demonstrators.

Meanwhile the former secret service director Vladimir Atanasovski, accused of being a direct instigator of the violence and ordering a vehicle full of weapons to be parked outside parliament, was sentenced to six years in prison.

Gruevski ruled North Macedonia with an iron for a decade before he was brought down by a political crisis in 2016.

The former leader -- who fled to Hungary in 2018 to escape a corruption charge -- also been accused of inciting the attack on parliament.