News 28 Oct 16

Serbian State Security ‘Involved in Killing Journalist’

The former chief of a police task force investigating the 1999 murder of an opposition journalist told a Belgrade court that his probe concluded that State Security was involved in the killing.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Slavko Curuvija. Photo courtesy of the Slavko Curuvija Foundation.

Former police task force chief Dragan Karleusa told the Belgrade court on Friday that State Security was following opposition journalist Slavko Curuvija but stopped the surveillance just hours before his murder, which indicated that it was involved in the killing in April 1999.

“Everything was pointing to State Security so we led an investigation in that direction. Also, we noticed that some of the information that we obtained was planted, so that they could distract us and lose us time,” said Karleusa.

He said that as well as seeing the “signature” of State Security in the killing, police obtained information that a car parked close to the scene of the murder had State Security licence plates.

“With that car at the scene, we located members of State Security who were on the spot. The car was given to [defendant] Ratko Romic,” said Karleusa.

According to the indictment, an ‘unknown person’ ordered the killing and Radomir Markovic, the former head of Serbian State Security, abetted the crime, while three former security service officers - Ratko Romic, Milan Radonjic and Miroslav Kurak - took part in the organisation and execution of the murder.

Kurak was the direct perpetrator, while Romic was his accomplice, it is alleged.

Three of the suspects have pleaded not guilty, while Kurak is on the run and is being tried in absentia.

Markovic is currently serving a 40-year sentence for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and other crimes, while Romic and Radonjic were acquitted in September of the attempted murder of opposition party leader Vuk Draskovic in 2000.

During his testimony, Karleusa also said that information that the killer of Curuvija was Luka Pejovic, a member of the interior ministry’s Special Operations Unit, had been planted.

“We got the information that Luka Pejovic was the murderer but during the investigation, everything was rejected through checking. He simply was not that kind of ‘calibre’ for this job,” Karleusa said.

Pejovic was killed by an unknown assailant in Belgrade in 2000.

Curuvija was shot in the back 17 times in front of the building where he lived in Belgrade - a murder that his family and former colleagues believe was motivated by his opposition stance.

The journalist was outspoken in criticising Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, openly accusing him of war crimes and running an oppressive regime.

Several former senior state security officials have testified at so far at the trial. Despite their differing testimonies, most agreed that Curuvija was killed minutes after a surveillance team was ordered to stop following him.

They said that Curuvija was followed by State Security throughout 1999 as he was seen as an enemy of the Milosevic government.

In another development on Friday, the Belgrade-based Insajder website reported that the appeals court has ordered the Belgrade court trying the Curuvija case to reconsider and clearly explain its decision to remand defendants Radonjic and Romic in custody.

A spokesperson told Insajder that the appeals court had accepted complaints from Radonjic and Romic’s lawyers and reversed the Belgrade court’s October 17 decision that Radonjic and Romic should be remanded in custody for 60 more days.

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