News 02 Jun 15

Serbian Security Officers Deny Journalist’s Murder

At the first hearing in the trial of three former state security officers for the notorious 1999 killing of prominent Serbian journalist Slavko Curuvija, the accused pleaded not guilty.

Ivana Nikolic
BIRN
Belgrade
Slavko Curuvija.

Former Serbian state security service chief Radomir Markovic and former state security officers Ratko Romic and Milan Radonjic told the Belgrade-based special court on Monday they didn’t kill or participate in the murder of editor and publisher Slavko Curuvija on April 11, 1999.

A fourth state security officer also accused of involvement in Curivija’s death, Miroslav Kurak, is on the run and will be tried in absentia.

Curuvija was gunned down in front of the building where he lived in Belgrade - he was shot in the back 17 times, a murder that his family and former colleagues believe was motivated by his opposition to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

According to the indictment, an ‘unknown person’ ordered the killing and Markovic abetted the crime, while the three other men took part in the organisation and execution of the murder.

The indictment alleges that after former Special Police Unit commander Milorad Ulemek Legija refused Markovic’s request for his unit to kill Curuvija at the end of March 1999, Markovic called on Radonjic to do the job.

Radonjic then engaged Kurak and Romic, who were the direct perpetrators, the prosecution alleges.

Prosecutor Milenko Mandic said that Curuvija was killed “because of his public speeches in the country and abroad, in which he criticised the political authorities and because of the possible influence on the public he could have had”.

The murder was committed “for the sake of the preservation of the current [Milosevic] regime”, Mandic added.

But Markovic, who is currently serving a 40-year sentence for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and other crimes, told the court that he neither planned nor ordered the killing of Curuvija.

“The prosecutor needed someone in between that unknown person from the regime and the direct perpetrators, so accusing the security service chief was the right move,” he said.

He added that all the allegations against him are groundless because they are based on witnesses “who only heard something from someone or read in the newspapers [about his alleged involvement in the killing]”.

The former state security chief also said that during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, when Curivija was murdered, “Slobodan Milosevic, me and the whole state had more important concerns than thinking about a person who criticised his regime”.

The prosecution based its case on the testimony of Legija, who is serving a 40-year jail term for his role in the assassination of Serbian President Zoran Djindjic in March 2003.

Romic and Radonjic are also on trial for an assassination attempt on politician Vuk Draskovic in 2000 in the Montenegrin coastal town of Budva. They were sentenced to 15 years in total in June 2012, but the appeals court ordered a retrial a year later.

A few days before Curuvija was killed, he was accused by Milosevic’s wife, Mirjana Markovic, of supporting NATO’s bombing of Serbia. Markovic left the country for Russia after Milosevic was sent to stand trial for war crimes in The Hague, where he died in 2006.

Curuvija was originally a reporter with many prominent magazines and daily newspapers in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia.

In 1994, after the regime’s unofficial takeover of the newspaper Borba, he and many other staffers decided to quit.

In 1996, he founded Dnevni Telegraf, Serbia’s first privately-owned daily in more than 50 years. Curuvija was its director, editor-in-chief and sole owner. In 1998, he also started a bi-weekly magazine, Evropljanin.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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