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Macedonia summons Hungarian ambassador over ex-PM's escape

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski escaped to Hungary

Macedonia summoned Hungary's ambassador on Tuesday to deliver a "protest note" over ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's escape to Budapest to avoid prison time, the foreign ministry said.

The former Macedonia strongman, who has been convicted of abuse of power, slipped out of the country this month and announced last week he was applying for asylum in Hungary.

Albanian police say he was shepherded through their territory in a Hungarian diplomatic vehicle on November 11 through to Montenegro.

But Budapest has denied having actively assisting in Gruevski's escape.

On Tuesday Macedonia's State Secretary summoned the Hungarian Ambassador to Skopje, Laszlo Duks, to "hand over a protest note from the Macedonian to the Hungarian side," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The meeting was held "on the occasion of the latest information related to the flight of Nikola Gruevski and his asylum request to Hungary," it added.

Macedonia also urged Hungary to reject the asylum request and immediately return Gruevski, who was handed a two-year jail term and is facing several other corruption trials.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban was a public ally of Gruevski, who dominated Macedonia from 2006 until his downfall in 2016.

The former leader of Macedonia's right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party resigned after a scandal emerged over tapes that appeared to show widespread wire-tapping by his administration.

He was convicted in May of using a 600,000-euro ($676,009) government Mercedes for personal travel. A Skopje court upheld the sentence in October.

Gruevski also faces a number of other charges of corruption, abuse of power, electoral fraud as well as illegal wiretapping. He claims the cases are politically motivated.