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Thousands join in North Macedonia opposition protest

Thousands of opposition supporters marched peacefully through North Macedonia's capital Skopje late Tuesday to protest what they claim was interference in the judiciary by the country's former prime minister.

The protest to the Supreme Court building was organized by the conservative main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party amid campaigning for early parliamentary elections on April 12.

The party has called for a judicial investigation into alleged abuse of power by Zoran Zaev, the center-left prime minister who stepped down last month in preparation for the elections.

Hristijan Mickoski, center, the leader of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, takes a part in a protest march starting outside the Public Prosecutor's office and ending in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)

The opposition's demand followed the release of an audio recording of a conversation in which Zaev, while serving as prime minister, allegedly implied that he had prior knowledge of what a prosecutor would recommend in a politically sensitive case. VMRO-DPMNE said it got the recording form a whistle-blower.

Zaev has acknowledged it is his voice on the recording but insisted he said nothing improper. His Social Democrat party dismissed opposition allegations that Zaev abused his position to interfere with the judiciary.

VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski told protesters Tuesday that the recording showed “justice attacked by injustice.”

Hristijan Mickoski, center front, the leader of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, takes a part in a protest march starting outside the Public Prosecutor's office and ending in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)

Zaev has handed over to a caretaker government led by his former Interior Minister, Oliver Spasovski.

People carry a poster where the leader of the ruling Social Democrats Zoran Zaev is presented as a head of an octopus during a protest march organized by the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, starting outside the Public Prosecutor's office and ending in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)

Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, is raising his fists during a protest in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)

People gather for a protest march organized by the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, starting outside the Public Prosecutor's office and ending in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)

People chant slogans and play a vuvuzela during a protest march organized by the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, starting outside the Public Prosecutor's office and ending in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)

Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, gives a speech to supporters during a protest in front of the complex of national courts, in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Thousands of conservative opposition party supporters were marching in North Macedonia's capital Skopje late on Tuesday, accusing the outgoing leftist government for strongly influencing prosecution and court decisions. (AP PhotoBoris Grdanoski)