09:48 GMT +321 September 2019
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    Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov holds a press conference ahead of an EU-Balkans mini summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on October 25, 2015.

    Macedonian President Revokes All Political Pardons in Stunning U-Turn

    © AFP 2019 / THIERRY CHARLIER
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    Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has performed a stunning U-turn by revoking all 56 pardons he previously granted to officials implicated in the country’s wiretapping scandal, following pressure from the EU and US.

    "I have decided to revoke the remaining pardons that I had granted," Ivanov said in a statement.

    The decision means that legal investigations into all 56 cases can continue, and comes after he last month revoked the pardons of 22 "politically active" under investigation.

    "In the past 10 days [since the partial retraction of the pardons] we have witnessed different interpretations of the decision… therefore I decided to annul the remaining decision for pardoning," the president said.

    ​While the initial decision to grant the pardons triggered widespread public outrage and led to the cancellation of the elections previously scheduled for June 5, Ivanov defended his actions.

    "I was and am convinced that this decision to pardon would contribute to national reconciliation and offer a way out of the political crisis," he said.

    The decision to perform the U-turn came amid increasing pressure from the EU, the US and NATO, who put a strain on the president to revoke the pardons, arguing that failure to do so would extend Macedonia's political crisis.

    ​The political drama centers on claims that the government, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, illegally wiretapped 20,000 people and placed them under surveillance.

    Gruevski denied the allegations, claiming tape recordings that purportedly implicated him and other officials were fraudulent.

    The release of the tapes by opposition leader Zoran Zaev led to widespread public protests, with Gruevski resigning this year as part of EU-brokered talks, which aimed at holding new elections in June.

    ​However president Ivanov's decision to grant pardons, along with other concerns over media and electoral transparency led to opposition parties boycotting the elections, which were ultimately canceled.

    Both Gruevski and Zaev were among those to have their pardons revoked in relation to the wiretapping scandal and the subsequent release of audio tapes, while it was also revealed that Zaev was granted another pardon over a 2008 scandal involving land deals.

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    Tags:
    elections, pardon, political crisis, wiretapping, European Union, Gjorge Ivanov, Zoran Zaev, Nikola Gruevski, EU, United States, Eastern Europe, Macedonia
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