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Macedonian Court Delays Renegade Priest’s Re-trial

March 31, 2012

A court in Veles has accepted Jovan Vraniskovski’s request for more time to prepare his defence in his re-trial for embezzlement.

Jovan Vraniskovski [centre] before the courthouse

The court gave the cleric until April 9 to prepare his trial after his lawyer insisted he was not trying to buy time.

The court in Veles has until the end of July to re-open and conclude the new trial before the expiry of the ten-year deadline for the criminal procedure.

If nothing happens before then, Vraniskovski can walk free.

“There are some aspects of the case that he wants to revise. The Appellate Court advised him to seek other experts’ opinions, and this is why we need more time,” lawyer Vasil Gjorgiev told the court on Wednesday.

Vraniskovski was sentenced in October 2009 for appropriating €250,000 in 2002 that belonged to the Macedonian Orthodox Church in which he then served. As he was out of the country, the court jailed him in absentia.

He fled the country, claiming he was being framed for having defected to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In December 2011 Vraniskovski turned himself over to the Macedonian authorities, seeking a re-trial. Macedonian law allows for the re-trial of persons sentenced in absentia if they voluntarily turn themselves in within a year of receiving their sentence.

Despite evidence suggesting that he returned after the expiry of the time limit, earlier this month Skopje’s Appellate Court allowed a re-trial.

The prosecutor in the case, Slavica Temelkovski, said the defence’s arguments for postponing the trial were not valid.

“I don’t know what kind of additional expertise the Appellate Court advised them to seek,” Temelkovski said.

For almost a decade the cleric has been the focus of a dispute between the Macedonian Orthodox Church and its Serbian counterpart, which does not recognise Macedonia’s ecclesiastical independence, known as autocephaly.

The more influential Serbian Church refuses to accept this and has said it will offer Macedonia’s church only autonomy.

After the court session Vraniskovski had time to talk to his followers who met him in the hallway of the court. Some expressed displeasure after the court guards prevented them from paying respect by kissing his hand.

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