The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that the United States was "deeply concerned" about Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov's decision to pardon 56 people, including several high-ranking politicians, allegedly involved in a wiretapping scandal.
"This decision will protect corrupt officials and deny justice to the people of Macedonia," spokesman John Kirby said.
He also said it undermined the integrity of Macedonia's judicial system and its leaders' commitment to the basic values of NATO and the European Union, both of which Macedonia is striving to join.
Thousands of protesters marched Wednesday through central Skopje to protest the president's decision. Some threw stones and eggs at government buildings.
Reuters said one group of demonstrators broke into an office sometimes used by Ivanov, breaking windows and smashing furniture.
Ivanov said Tuesday that he was pardoning 56 officials allegedly involved in the wiretapping scandal, including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski — an Ivanov political ally — and opposition leader Zoran Zaev.
He said the multiple criminal investigations were paralyzing the country and had created a situation "so tangled that nobody can untangle it."
Zaev revealed last year that the former Gruevski government had secretly recorded more than 20,000 people. The recordings uncovered evidence of government control over journalists, judges, and what were supposed to be free and fair elections.
Gruevski denied the charges and accused Zaev of trying to bring down the government.
Even though he was pardoned on charges of trying to overthrow the government, Zaev blasted Ivanov's decision as a coup attempt.