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news 03 Jul 17

Montenegro Backs Down Over Opposition Leader's Arrest

After opposition MPs in Montenegro spent a fifth night in parliament, vowing to prevent the arrest of an opposition leader, the President has intervened with prosecutors.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Nebojsa Medojevic. Photo: PzP.

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic on Monday sent a letter to Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic, asking him to instruct the State Special Prosecution not to demand the detention of opposition leader Nebojsa Medojovic.

The move came after several MPs from the main opposition alliance, the Democratic Front, and other opposition parties, spent five days in parliament, blocking the detention of Medojevic, who faces arrest in connection with corruption allegations.

The parliament, dominated by the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, lifted Medojevic‘s immunity on Thursday on the request of the special prosecutor for organised crime, Milivoje Katnic.

Katnic said police should take Medojevic in for questioning, after which a decision on his possible arrest would be made.

Medojevic is known as one of the sharpest critics of the government and of the ruling party run by veteran leader Milo Djukanovic.

He is accused of plotting to help a businessman from Bosnia to evade taxes and of money laundering.

After spending five days in the parliament, the opposition MPs said they were ready to “spend all summer" in the building, calling the charges against Medojevic politically motivated.

"We are not defending Medojevic here, we are defending Montenegro," another Front leader, Andrija Mandic, said.

Tensions over possible Medojevic’s arrest rose over the weekend, especially after the leading bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije, was prevented from entering parliament on Sunday, when he planned to visit Medojevic.

In February, two other Front leaders, Mandic and Milan Knezevic, were also stripped of their parliamentary immunity from prosecution in connection with an alleged attempted coup on election day last October.

The Democratic Front parties are seeking to end the long reign of the DPS, which has lasted more than 25 years.

They accuse the party and its chief, former prime minister and president Djukanovic, of abusing authority to hold on to power and gather immense wealth through corruption.

Thousands of opposition supporters protested in the capital, Podgorica, until the Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic ordered the Special State Prosecutor's Office not to seek the arrest of Mandic and Knezevic, suspected of involvement in attempts to undermine "the constitutional rule and security of Montenegro".

However, the prosecution insists that a group of Serbs, Montenegrins and Russians, including Mandic and Knezevic, tried to overthrow the pro-Western government last October, mainly to stop the country from joining NATO.

It claims the security services only thwarted the coup after the arrest of 20 Serbian citizens, including a former Serbian police general, Bratislav Dikic.

Both Mandic and Knezevic have dismissed the plot allegations as false. The Democratic Front has accused the prosecutor's office of acting under the influence of Djukanovic.

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