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news 24 May 17

Serbian General Denies Montenegro Putsch Charges

Retired General Bratislav Dikic and five others facing a trial over an alleged coup attempt last October in Montenegro have again pleaded not guilty, saying all the evidence was planted.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Serbian retired general Bratislav Dikic has once again pleaded not guilty. Photo: BETA/ SASA DJORDJEVIC.

A former top general in Serbia's elite Gendarmerie unit, Bratislav Dikic, on Wednesday denied having backed an alleged coup plot in Montenegro during the elections in the republic last October.

Dikic told the court in Podgorica at the pre-trial session that he was a victim of the “fabricated charges" of the Montenegrin Special Prosecution.

“I'm was not preparing or attempted to commit or committed any of the things I have been charged with," Dikic told the court after being in detention for almost eight months.

The pre-trial in the alleged coup case began on Wednesday with a heavy police force securing the High Court building in Podgorica.

The court is expected to decide whether to confirm or reject the 129-page indictment against 14 people, including two leaders from the opposition Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic.

If the court accepts the Special Prosecution's charges, Mandic and Knezevic will be tried for attempting to overthrow the government and kill the pro-Western then-prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

Mandic and Knezevic were not present in court on Wednesday but six other defendants who are still in detention, all Serbian citizens, denied involvement in the alleged plot.

General Dikic also denied knowing, or meeting, any of the Democratic Front members, claiming that he had no communications with Mandic and Knezevic.

Defence lawyers have insisted that the indictment is unsustainable, as it is mainly based on the testimony of Sasa Sindjelic, convicted of murder in 2012 in Croatia.

One of the defence lawyers, Goran Petronijevic, called Sindjelic an "instructed witness."

On April 13, the Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime, Milivoje Katnic, filed an indictment against 12 others, two Russians, nine Serbian citizens and one other Montenegrin, accusing them of having played roles in the coup plot.

The two Russians are military intelligence officers named as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov - both at large.

The indictment does not directly link the Montenegrin opposition politicians to the two Russians who were accused of organising the plot.

The plotters intended to "commit an undefined number of terrorist acts" aimed at "permanently destabilising Montenegro and seizing power," the prosecution document reads.

“Mandic and Knezevic were spending time together and often travelling in Moscow, where there is no rational reason to explain the number of departures to that destination if it was not to coordinate the activities in the criminal scheme," the indictment reads.

Mandic and Knezevic deny the charges and insist the coup was faked to discredit their party, the Democratic Front.

"This is a political trial set up to weaken the Democratic Front and to allow the regime to settle its accounts with the opposition," Mandic recently told BIRN in an interview.

While the Special Prosecutor has said that “Russian state bodies” were involved in the alleged coup, Russia has denied all involvement - while continuing to support the Democratic Front and other opposition groups which oppose NATO membership and champion closer ties to the Kremlin.

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