2 arrested in northern Greece on Macedonian wiretap charges

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Two Macedonian men appeared in a court in northern Greece Thursday after being arrested on an international warrant issued by their country on charges related to an illegal wiretapping scandal.

Greek authorities said the two were arrested Wednesday at Thessaloniki airport and were found to be carrying forged Bulgarian travel documents. Court documents describe the two, aged 51 and 35, as being members of Macedonia’s counter-intelligence services.

Warrants had been issued for both by Macedonia on charges of setting up a criminal organization and for technology-related crimes.

A Greek court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the information was not being publicly released, said the technology charges were related to a two-year wiretapping scandal that shook Macedonia’s political scene.

The scandal broke in 2015 when it emerged that the phone conversations of about 20,000 people had been illegally recorded. The political crisis triggered early elections last year.

The two denied the charges against them, saying they were politically motivated, and told the Greek court they wished to fight their extradition to Macedonia because their lives would be in danger if they returned. Any decision on potential extradition could take several weeks.

The men are to appear in court in Thessaloniki again on Friday to be tried on Greek charges of using forged documents.

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