News 21 Dec 10

Accused Serb Paramilitaries Go on Trial in Belgrade

The trial of nine former members of a paramilitary unit accused of war crimes against civilians in a village near Pec in Kosovo began on Monday.

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The indictees, members of a unit called Sakali (Jackals), are charged with the killing at least 43 civilians in the village of Cuska, on May 14, 1999, during the conflict in Kosovo.

The trial is being held before the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade High Court.

Toplica Miladinovic, Srecko Popovic, Slavisa Kastratovic, Boban Bogicevic, Zvonimir Cvetkovic, Radoslav Brnovic, Vidoje Koricanin, Veljko Koricanin and Abdulah Sokic are charged with murder, rape, looting, destroying and burning property of civilians, and for robbing and spreading fear among ethnic Albanian civilians so as to force them to move to Albania.

Miladinovic, who was the commander of local Serb territorial defense, denied the charges in the court on Monday, saying he never heard of Jackals and didn't know its members, Italian news agency Adnkronos reported.

According to the indictment, Miladinovic issued orders to the Jackals' commander, Nebojsa Minic, to burn the village and kill the civilians. Minic was arrested in Argentina in 2005, but died of AIDS before he could be

"I haven't committed a crime, I never ordered it nor heard that order," Miladinović told the court. "I heard about it the first time when I read the indictment," he was cited by Adnkronos as saying.

 All the accused are in custody.

On March 13, the Prosecution indicted 26 persons suspected of committing crimes in the village of Cuska, and police arrested the nine indictees currently on trial shortly afterwards. Interpol warrants have been issued for the 17 suspects on the run.

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