Sunday, November 04, 2007

Former Macedonian PM appears in court over arms deal

Macedonia's former prime minister appeared in a Skopje district court Monday to face charges of acting against the national interest in connection with an arms procurement deal.

Vlado Buckovski, now an opposition Social Democrat lawmaker, told judges he was innocent of any wrongdoing in the 2001 deal, which prosecutors say cost the country €3 million (US$4.3 million).

Buckovski, who was prime minister between 2004-2006, was defense minister at the time.

Also on trial are Macedonia's former army chief of staff, Gen. Metodi Stamboliski, two senior defense ministry officials and the manager of a state-owned metal company that supplied the military equipment.

According to the indictment, the suspects abused their positions and harmed the country's interests by ordering four times the quantity of tank parts required by the armed forces in November 2001.

Buckovski was charged last month. Macedonian lawmakers had lifted his parliamentary immunity from prosecution in August.

Speaking in court Monday, Buckovski argued that the tank parts were needed due to instability in the country after an armed uprising by ethnic Albanian rebels in which 80 people died.

"There are a number of inaccuracies in the indictment," he said. "It is absurd to claim that security in Macedonia had not deteriorated in 2001."

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