SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) – The leader of Macedonia’s opposition was charged Saturday with preparing a coup and prevented from leaving the country.
Zoran Zaev, leader of the Social Democratic Union party, was charged with “violence against representatives of the highest state authorities.”
He was questioned by an investigative judge, but wasn’t arrested and was ordered to hand over his passport, local media reported.
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski accused Zaev of trying to blackmail him into resigning and giving way to a government of technicians by threatening to publish compromising phone conversations.
Gruevski told journalists he met Zaev four times last year and that the latter had told him he possessed “recorded phone conversations from a foreign intelligence service that may discredit the country’s leadership.”
“I do not accept any threats and blackmailing.”
“This has done real damage to the reputation of the state,” Gruevski said.
In a statement, Macedonia’s Interior ministry said that “for the first time in history of independent Macedonia” police had prevented an “attempt on endangering the constitutional order and (an) undemocratic takeover or violation of the will of the citizens.”
Last weekend, authorities arrested former intelligence chief Zoran Verusevski, accused of possessing illegal weapons. On Saturday, they also arrested Verusevski’s wife and one other man, in connection with the case.
Computers, mobile phones, two illegal weapons and about one million files were confiscated during the search of the suspected homes, police said.
Zaev’s party has been boycotting parliament, accusing the ruling conservative coalition led by Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party of fraud in the April 2014 election.