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News 07 Dec 16

Jeremic Accused of Role Serb Soldiers' Mystery Deaths

Pro-government tabloid accuses former top diplomat Vuk Jeremic of witholding information about the unexplained deaths of two soldiers - in what could be a move to spoil his presidential chances in 2017.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade
Print screen of Informer's front page on Wednesday.

The Serbian pro-government tabloid newspaper Informer has published on its front page that former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic was possibly “involved” in the mysterious deaths of two soldiers in a Belgrade army barracks in 2004.

The accusations came after a representative of the soldiers' families, Olgica Batic, told the media on Tuesday that Jeremic was informed about the deaths of Drazen Milovanovic and Dragan Jakovljevic before the then Chief of the General Staff, Branko Krga, was told.

The case came back to the spotlight after the Centre for Forensic Research in Novi Sad, northern Serbia, announced on Monday that it had concluded that the soldiers were killed.

It thus confirmed the findings of the independent commission led by lawyer Boza Prelevic that reached the same conclusion back in 2004.

At the time, Jeremic was an adviser to the then Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Prelevic told N1 television on Tuesday that linking Jeremic to the soldiers' deaths likely had a political background to it.

Serbia faces presidential elections in April 2017 and Jeremic has been mooted as a possible candidate. Although he has not confirmed whether he will run, he is seen as a potential rival to whatever candidate stands for the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

“He [Jeremic] might be running for president and someone has now made something up [to smear him]. How does anyone know that he was first one to learn [about the soldiers' deaths]?" Prelevic asked. Even if he was, he continued, "What is the problem, if he knew first?”

Former President Tadic also told N1 that the case was being abused for political purposes.

“This is abuse of the families [of the soldiers] for political purposes, of people who lost so much … it is also proof of a very low political culture,” Tadic said.

The initial Serbian Army investigation ruled that one of the soldiers killed the other and then committed suicide.

But Prelevic’s investigation, initiated by the families, ruled that a third person killed the two servicemen.

The families claimed they obtained unofficial confirmation that the soldiers were killed on the orders of the fugitive Bosnian Serb warlord and Hague war-crimes tribunal indictee Ratko Mladic who was hiding in the same barracks as their sons.

“A month ago we got a letter signed by the ‘former security of the ICTY indictee’ which described what happened that day. The letter says Mladic was present that day in the barracks and that our two boys noticed him,” Janko Jakovljevic, the father of one of the dead soldiers, said in July 2012.

Jakovljevic said Mladic had demanded that the two soldiers be killed.

Serbia’s chief prosecutor for war crimes, Vladimir Vukcevic, responded that, according to his information, during that period Mladic was not present in the barracks.

Mladic moved freely about Belgrade until April 2002 when the Serbian parliament adopted a law on cooperation with the war crimes tribunal, ICTY.

According to the war crimes prosecutor’s office, Mladic hid in a variety of locations in Belgrade until 2006, when all trace of him was lost.

Jeremic has not commented on the latest allegations so far.

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