News 18 Aug 14

Kosovo Serb Leader Awaits War Crimes, Murder Trial

Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic will go on trial on August 26 for war crimes during the Kosovo conflict as well as committing murder during clashes that erupted afterwards.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Oliver Ivanovic. Photo by BETA.

Ivanovic, a former Serbian government official and head of a Kosovo Serb political party called Freedom, Democracy, Justice, will appear before Kosovo judges for the first time at the Basic Court in Mitrovica next Tuesday, his lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic said.

“It is expected that he will enter his plea and that the indictment will be read,” Vlajic said.

The case against Ivanovic has sparked protests by Kosovo Serbs and allegations from the Belgrade authorities that the charges are politically motivated.

He is accused of committing war crimes during the Kosovo conflict in April 1999. He is also charged, together with former Serb policemen Dragoljub Delibasic, with committing murder during clashes that left ten ethnic Albanians dead and many more wounded in February 2000.

Ivanovic and Delibasic are further charged with inciting others to commit murder during the February 2000 violence which saw many Albanians driven from their homes.

Three other defendants in the upcoming trial – Ilija Vujacic, Nebojsa Vujacic and Aleksandar Lazovic – are also accused of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder in February 2000.

Ivanovic was a so-called "Bridge Watcher" at the time when the alleged offences occurred - one of the Serb militants who patrolled the main bridge in Mitrovica which divides the northern Kosovo town into Serbian and Albanian sectors.

After his arrest, the Serbian government offered guarantees that if he was released from detention pending trial, it would ensure that he would appear in court, but its pleas were ignored.

His party on Sunday called on Serbian government to again offer such guarantees, because his remand in custody is set to expire on August 27.

“We know that the prosecutor will ask for a custody extension, but if the government provides guarantees, there is a possibility he will be released,” said Ksenija Bozovic, an official from the party.

The Serbian government has so far made no comment on the indictments of Ivanovic and the other three suspects.

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