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news 14 Feb 17

Montenegro Seeks Arrests of ‘Coup Plot’ Opposition Leaders

Lawmakers are expected to vote on Wednesday on a motion to strip two Montenegrin opposition leaders of their immunity from prosecution over their alleged involvement in a coup attempt.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
The leaders of the pro-Russian alliance. Photo: The Democratic Front/Facebook.

The civic movement URA on called for an urgent meeting of all opposition parties after a parliamentary committee approved a request to lift the immunity of two opposition leaders suspected of being involved in the alleged coup attempt on election day in October.

MPs are to vote on Wednesday on the motion filed by the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime, Milivoje Katnic, which asked for the leaders of the pro-Russian opposition Democratic Front alliance, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, to be detained and eventually put on trial.

The URA movement called for an emergency meeting of the opposition over the motion and the upcoming municipal polls on March 12 in Niksic, the second largest city in Montenegro.

The opposition claims it has the chance to win the election in Niksic and with the possible arrests, the prosecution is working in favour of former PM Milo Djukanovic's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.

“[Special Prosecutor Milivoje] Katnic must know how to bear responsibility for the political situation in Montenegro due to the fact that he is seeking arrest of the two representatives of the Democratic Front as it begins the campaign for the elections in Niksic," URA said.

Another opposition party, the Socialist People's Party, called for a joint opposition stance, accusing the prosecution of adding fuel to an already overheated political situation in Montenegro.

Mandic and Knezevic are the leaders of the main opposition alliance which strongly opposes the country’s NATO membership bid and advocates closer ties with Russia.

In the motion sent to parliament on Monday, the special prosecution claimed that both are suspected of "establishing a criminal organisation" and being involved in attempts to undermine "the constitutional rule and security of Montenegro".

The prosecution said that a group of Serbs, Montenegrins and Russians tried to organise a coup on election day, October 16. It claimed the security services had 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. They said on Monday they won't try to flee the country to avoid arrest.

"I have no intention of going anywhere. Those who come to arrest me must be ready for that task," Knezevic told reporters.

After returning from Belgrade late on Monday, Mandic said that everything related to the lifting of the men’s immunity was a show organised by Djukanovic.

The Democratic Front has accused the prosecutor's office acting under the influence of the still-powerful former PM.

It has said that Djukanovic is “threatening to drag Montenegro into civil war”.

“If violence becomes state policy, the answer to this could be violence,” it warned.

The motion to strip the two opposition leaders of their immunity has to be approved by a majority in the 81-seat parliament.

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