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North Macedonia Sentences Former Officials in Parliament Attack

FILE - Protesters entered Macedonia's parliament after the governing Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties voted to elect an Albanian as parliament speaker in Skopje, Macedonia, April 27, 2017.

As the U.S. Congress and criminal justice system pursue accountability for those involved in the January insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, a court in North Macedonia has sentenced several former officials for their roles in a 2017 assault on the parliament in Skopje.

Both legislature attacks were aimed at disrupting the democratic process. Rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers inside were meeting to certify the results of President Joe Biden’s election victory over President Donald Trump.

The assault in Skopje involved protesters who supported the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party seeking to prevent the election of a new parliamentary speaker and opposing a proposed coalition government between the Social Democrat party and ethnic Albanian parties.

Among those sentenced Monday were former parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski, former senior intelligence official Vladimir Atanasovski, and government ministers Mile Janakieski and Spiro Ristovski.

The officials were all from the VMRO-DPMNE party, and their sentences range from six years to six-and-a-half years on charges of endangering constitutional order and security.

The court said that on the day of the assault Veljanoski intentionally prolonged debate inside while Janakieski and Ristovski communicated with protest organizers outside.

Zoran Zaev, who led the Social Democrats at the time and is now prime minister, accused the attackers of attempted murder. Zaev was injured in the assault, along with dozens of journalists and lawmakers.

A judge said in explaining the verdict Monday that organizing an intrusion of the legislature and attacking lawmakers was neither democracy nor patriotism.

Former VMRO-DPMNE leader and prime minister Nikola Gruevski was also accused of being one of the organizers of the attack but has not faced trial. He resigned in 2016 after 10 years in power, and after being sentenced to two years in prison on corruption charges, he fled to Hungary, where he was granted political asylum.

Gruevski said at the time of the attack he deplored the violence and that the other parties were responsible for instigating the attack by attempting a power grab.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and AFP