The Latest: Former Macedonian PM wrong to flee, party says

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — The Latest on the former prime minister who fled Macedonia (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

The fugitive Macedonian former prime minister’s conservative party says he should not have fled to Hungary, even though the party called him a victim of persecution.

The VMRO-DPMNE party claimed in a statement Wednesday that Nikola Gruevski had been subjected to “political persecution” by Macedonian authorities.

Party spokesman Naum Stoilkovski accused the left-led government of using Gruevski’s case to stage “cheap political theatre to cover its own weakness and lack of capability.”

Stoilovski added that Gruevski’s flight to Hungary could create problems for other VMRO officials who face similar charges. Earlier Wednesday, authorities temporarily jailed two other conservative former government officials facing corruption charges, citing the risk that they too might try to flee.

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4:15 p.m.

The Hungarian government says the former prime minister of Macedonia, who fled his country to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption, has requested asylum.

Nikola Gruevski is considered to be close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose office said Tuesday it considers the asylum request “solely a legal issue” and sees Macedonia as “a strategic partner and an important ally.”

Hungarian opposition parties are demanding that the Orban government deny the asylum request and hand over Gruevski to Macedonian authorities.

Orban’s office says Gruevski intends to submit a request for refugee status in Hungary.

–This item has been corrected to show that the first name of the ex-prime minister is Nikola, not Nikolas.

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12:35 p.m.

Macedonian authorities have temporarily jailed two former government officials on trial for corruption, after the former prime minister fled to Hungary to avoid serving a two-year prison term.

A criminal court on Wednesday ordered former transport minister Mile Janakieski and former government secretary-general Kiril Bozinovski to be held for 30 days. Prosecutors sought their detention amid fears they could also try to flee the country.

They are on trial on charges including corruption over public contracts and election fraud.

Interior minister Oliver Spasovski said late Tuesday that Macedonia will seek the extradition from Hungary of Nikola Gruevski, who was prime minister from 2006-2016.

Gruevski, currently a lawmaker for the main opposition party, was convicted of influencing officials to purchase a luxury car for government use.