News 28 Jul 14

Belgrade Urges Kosovo Serb Politician’s ‘Immediate’ Release

The Serbian government said that local politician Oliver Ivanovic, who has been in custody since January on suspicion of involvement in war crimes and murders in Kosovo, should be bailed.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Oliver Ivanovic.Photo by BETA

“The Office for Kosovo and Metohija is deeply worried that six months has passed since the arrest of the leader of the SDP [Freedom, Democracy and Justice party], Oliver Ivanovic, while an indictment has still not been issued, nor he was allowed release on bail,” the Serbian government office responsible for Kosovo issues said in a statement on Sunday.

It said it was “disappointed” that the Serbian government’s guarantees that Ivanovic would appear for any trial if he was granted bail had been “ignored”.

“Bearing in mind that the prosecutor didn’t manage to collect evidence against Ivanovic, we are requesting an end to this process and Ivanovic’s immediate release,” the statement said.

Ivanovic was arrested in January on suspicion of involvement in war crimes against ethnic Albanians, and in murders committed after the 1990s conflict.

He was detained on suspicion of involvement in war crimes and in violence in 2000 in which ten Kosovo Albanians were killed and many more wounded and driven from their homes.

Ivanovic at the time was a leading "Bridge Watcher", one of the hardline Serbs who patrolled the main bridge in the town of Mitrovica dividing it into Serbian and Albanian sectors.

His custody was extended again until August 26, with the prosecution arguing that “the risk of flight and the risk that the defendant might influence witnesses if released continues to exist”.

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