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news 06 Sep 17

Serbian Ex-General Dismisses Charges in Montenegro Coup Trial

Retired Serbian General Bratislav Dikic, one of the main suspects in the alleged coup attempt in Montenegro, likened the case against him to a 'fairytale' as the trial resumed in Podgorica.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 Retired Serbian general Bratislav Dikic. Photo: BETAPHOTO7SASA DJORDJEVIC/DS.

Former Serbian Gendarmerie Commander Bratislav Dikic said on Wednesday that the coup charges against him had been “invented" – and that he would never have planned to commit a terrorist attack in Montenegro.

Dikic was presenting his defence before the court in Podgorica at the trial in the coup case and pleaded not guilty to the charges that he was one of the key plotters who planned to overthrow the country's pro-Western government last October.

"I state with full responsibility that I was not aware of the existence of an any criminal organization," Dikic told the court.

"I don't know any of the Russians nor did I know the Montenegrin politicians also accused in this case ... This indictment reads like a fairytale," he said.

Dikic reiterated that a man of his intelligence and police experience, working with the police for 30 years, would never have done any of the things listed in the indictment.

Trial proceedings started at the High Court in Podgorica with the reading of the indictment against 14 Russian, Serbian and Montenegrin citizens suspected of attempting to overthrow the government to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

The eight defendants present in court on Wednesday, all charged with "creating a criminal organization" with the aim of undermining constitutional order, pleaded not guilty.

Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, both reportedly Russian military intelligence officers, are accused of being behind the network of Serbian and Montenegrin citizens who planned to assassinate Montenegro's then Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic, last October. They will be tried in absentia.

Others among the accused, three of whom are still at large, include the leaders of the main opposition Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic.

Charged with "criminal association" with a view to "committing terrorist acts", they face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Dikic was arrested in Montenegro last October.

The prosecution has said it believes “Russian state bodies” were involved in the alleged coup attempt.

The trial started first in May, but was postponed several times. It opened just a week after Britain’s Telegraph newspaper published what it said were surveillance photos from spy agencies, allegedly showing Shishmakov and Popov plotting the coup last year.

The photos allegedly show the two of them meeting Serbian nationalist Sasa Sindjelic in a Belgrade park in late October 2016, days after the Montenegrin elections returned pro-Western forces to power.

Sindjelic, who has been granted protected witness status by a Montenegrin court, was allegedly hired to orchestrate the coup on election day, October 16.

Opposition parties and some anti-government media in Montenegro have continued to dismiss the coup allegations.

They say the whole affair was staged by the authorities to ensure Djukanovic won another election and besmirch the opposition.

Russia has also denied involvement in the alleged plot.

However, Moscow supports the Democratic Front and other opposition groups that oppose NATO membership and champion closer ties to the Kremlin. It strongly objected to Montenegro joining NATO, and threatened unspecified retaliation after the country became a member of the Western military alliance in June.

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