BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Hungarian government said Thursday it did not assist the fugitive former prime minister of Macedonia in leaving his homeland to avoid a prison sentence.
Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said that Nikola Gruevski, who fled Macedonia rather than serve a two-year prison term for corruption, declared his intent to file for asylum at an unnamed Hungarian diplomatic office outside Macedonia.
Gulyas said authorities “did not have anything to do with” the 48-year-old Gruevski fleeing Macedonia and said it was “guaranteed” that Gruevski can’t leave Hungary.
Macedonia has called on Hungary to extradite Gruevski, who was prime minister from 2006-2016.
Hungarian authorities “are proceeding according to appropriate security protocols” regarding Gruevski, Gulyas told reporters, adding that Orban was “very amused” by reports that Gruevski, a close political ally, was living at his house.
Gulyas said that for security reasons, Gruevski was questioned at length in Budapest about his asylum request instead of at a border transit zone where most asylum-seekers wait for their requests to be evaluated.
Macedonia’s foreign ministry said that Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, had a telephone conversation Thursday about the case.
Dimitrov pointed out that Gruevski, who was convicted in May of unlawfully influencing interior ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury vehicle, had several other pending court proceedings against him for serious crimes.
Meanwhile, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, was strongly critical of the Macedonian judiciary and the Interior Ministry for not preventing Gruevski’s departure and demanded a “thorough investigation” to determine responsibility in the case.