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Macedonia indicts opposition leader Zoran Zaev over wiretapping scandal

Opposition leader Zaev and four others have been charged over a wiretapping scandal that threatens the ruling party's reign. But with leaks linking the prime minister to widespread corruption, who's to be believed?

Macedonia's state prosecutor on Thursday evening officially charged Zoran Zaev (pictured above), the leader of Macedonia's center-left Social Democrat party, with espionage, illegal wiretapping, and "violence against representatives of the highest state bodies."

But four others, including a former intelligence chief and his wife, were accused of espionage and illegal wiretapping of government officials.

Zaev and his party immediately dismissed the accusations in a statement.

"We have published evidence and arguments that the whole system in Macedonia is under the control of the government," the statement said.

Leaks or fabrications?

The indictment comes on the heels of published recordings implicating Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Grueyski in illegally wiretapping 20,000 people, including politicians, journalists, and community leaders.

Listen to audio 05:31

Mudslinging in Macedonia

The recorded materials detail widespread corruption and abuse of power by Grueyski's governing VMRO-DPMNE party.

However, Grueyski denies the allegations, accusing foreign spies of fabricating the recordings. But the opposition leader denies this, saying he accessed the material thanks to "patriots" in Macedonia's intelligence services. Grueyski has also accused Zaev of plotting a coup against his rule.

EU concerned

The EU has expressed concerns over the wiretapping scandal and suggested an independent investigation into the matter.

The opposition leader faces a minimum of four years in prison if found guilty. A senior judicial body is set to determine whether the five will stand trial.

Macedonia is trying to join the EU after gaining candidate status in 2005, though membership talks have yet to begin.

ls/bk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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