News 27 Feb 14

Custody Extended for Kosovo Serb Leader Ivanovic

A judge ruled that Oliver Ivanovic, arrested on suspicion of involvement in war crimes against Kosovo Albanians and murders after the 1990s conflict, should be held for two more months.

Edona Peci
Oliver Ivanovic.

The judge from the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, extended Ivanovic’s pre-trial detention on remand on Thursday despite continuing appeals from Belgrade for his release on bail.

“The pre-trial judge found that the risk of flight and the risk that the defendant might influence witnesses if released continued to exist and that there are no less severe measures that could be imposed at this time,” EULEX said in a statement.

Ivanovic was detained on January 27, but despite being in custody, he stood for mayor of the town of Mitrovica North in Serb-majority northern Kosovo on Sunday, coming second in the polls.

He is being held “as an alleged suspect in an ongoing war crimes investigation”, according to EULEX, and is also suspected of involvement in violence in 2000 in which ten Kosovo Albanians were killed and many more wounded and driven from their homes.

At the time, he was a leading "Bridge Watcher", one of the hardline Serbs who patrolled the main bridge in Mitrovica dividing the town into Serbian and Albanian sectors.

His arrest has caused discontent among Serbs in the town, who have taken to the streets in protest.

Serbian deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was visiting northern Kosovo on Thursday, called on the international community to intervene to secure Ivanovic’s release, describing his remand as an “arbitrary detention”.

“It is obvious that some strange political matters are involved,” he said.

Vucic vowed that he would keep pressing for Ivanovic and other Serbs detained by EULEX and the Kosovo authorities to be freed.

“Unfortunately it is not so much in our hands. We will do all we can,” he said.

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