News 17 Feb 17

Belgrade Criticises Kosovo Serb Leader’s Retrial

The head of the Serbian government’s Kosovo office said a Pristina court’s decision to send Kosovo Serb political party leader Oliver Ivanovic for retrial for alleged war crimes was unjust.

Maja Zivanovic

Oliver Ivanovic. Photo: Beta.

Marko Djuric, the head of the Serbian government’s Kosovo office, said on Thursday that Ivanovic’s “fight for justice unfortunately will have to continue”, after the Kosovo Serb party leader’s war crimes verdict was quashed and the case sent for retrial.

Djuric expressed regret that the Pristina appeals court didn’t end the proceedings against Ivanovic altogether, insisting that the war crimes case against him was unjust and politically-motivated.

“Instead of releasing Ivanovic, it prolonged the agony and the status of the last European political prisoner,” Djuric told Serbian newspaper Blic.

The court on Thursday ordered Ivanovic to remain in custody, but Djuric said he expected him to be bailed, and promised him Belgrade’s support.

Ivanovic is a former Serbian government official and head of a Kosovo Serb political party called Freedom, Democracy, Justice.

He was found guilty last January of ordering the murder of nine ethnic Albanians in the town of Mitrovica on April 14, 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, when he was allegedly the leader of a paramilitary police unit.

The Albanians were killed by so-called ‘Bridge Watchers’ - Serb hardliners who patrolled the main bridge in Mitrovica that divides the town into Serb and Albanian sectors.

Ivanovic launched an appeal against his sentence in October last year.

His lawyers claimed that criminal procedures were violated and the facts were wrongly established at his trial.

Ivanovic repeatedly claimed that his prosecution was politically motivated and went on hunger strike in protest several times during the trial.

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