Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Witness claims Djindjic deputy knew of plot to assassinate Serbian prime minister

Witness claims Djindjic deputy knew of plot to assassinate Serbian prime minister

A deputy of slain Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was aware of the plan to assassinate him, a witness testified Thursday at the trial of those accused in the 2003 killing.
Nebojsa Covic, a moderate politician who served as Djindjic's deputy, quickly denied the claim as "abominable lies, slander and manipulation" meant to raise political tensions before January elections.
The claim came from one of the 13 gangsters and veterans of the 1990s Balkan wars on trial in the killing. The suspect, Dejan Milenkovic, was testifying for the prosecution after striking an unspecified deal.
Djindjic, who led Serbia's first democratically elected government since World War II, was shot dead outside the government headquarters in downtown Belgrade on March 12, 2003.
Milenkovic alleged that Covic was among several Serb politicians who knew about the plot to kill the prime minister. He also named Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Radical Party, who is currently on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on charges linked to the murder, torture and expulsion of non-Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s wars.
"Among politicians ... Seselj and Covic knew about the plan," Milenkovic testified.
He did not elaborate on the question of whether Seselj or Covic might have taken an active role in the killing or what their motives might have been.
A vice president of Seselj's Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic, dismissed Milenkovic's testimony as "politically motivated."
"Someone coached him day and night and promised him freedom just to say this," Nikolic said without elaborating.
Milenkovic said the killing was meticulously plotted for months by mobsters and paramilitary personnel.
Milenkovic, also known by his underworld nickname, Bugsy, spoke extensively about what he said were several plans to kill Djindjic or other senior officials.
Djindjic had many enemies as he spearheaded the 2000 ouster of autocratic President Slobodan Milosevic and later extradited him to the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to answer for his role in the 1990s wars.
Djindjic also had plans to crack down on organized crime, which had flourished under Milosevic, as well as to extradite wartime commandos and paramilitary fighters to the Hague tribunal.
Milenkovic told the court that he was part of a group of gangsters and paramilitaries who teamed up to organize the sniper attack that killed the prime minister.
The initial plan, he said, was to kill Djindjic's closest aide, Cedomir Jovanovic, and then Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, but the plot eventually focused on the head of the government as the crime bosses and the military commandoes felt "increasingly threatened" by Djindjic's policies.
He also testified against his fellow defendants, including alleged mastermind Milorad Ulemek and the accused sharpshooter, Zvezdan Jovanovic.
Milenkovic, who fled to Greece after the killing but was later extradited to Serbia, initially pleaded innocent, but changed his plea to guilty after the deal with prosecutors. The other suspects have denied the charges.
The trial began in December 2003 but has been plagued by delays, bureaucratic tie-ups and the killing of at least one prosecution witness. A presiding judge has quit and a prosecutor involved got sacked after being embroiled in an unrelated corruption scandal.
If the trial extends into four full years without a verdict, the 13 suspects would have to be released from custody under Serbian law.