The trial of eight ex members of the Serbian special operations unit, charged with mutiny in 2001, has started after some delays as the defence tried to have the prosecutor and the entire Trial Chamber removed.
On Wednesday afternoon, the president of the Belgrade High Court, Dragoljub Albijanic, has rejected the latest demand by the defence to have the Trial Chamber removed, on grounds that its chairman, Vladimir Vucinic, allegedly rejected the defence’s request for unrestricted and unsupervised communication with their clients.
Yesterday’s request by the defence to have the prosecutor for organised crime, Miljko Radisavljevic, exempt was also rejected.
The defence lawyer, Gradimir Nalic, argued that the prosecutor has politicised the proceedings with his statement that the JSO’s mutiny was a prelude into the 2003 assassination of Serbia’s Premier Minister Zoran Djindjic.
Two of the defendants, Milorad Ulemek Legija and Zvezdan Jovanovic, are already serving sentence for Djindjic’s murder. However, so far no link between the 2001 mutiny and Djindjic’s assassination has been proven in the court.
Ulemek and Jovanovic, toghether with Dusan Maricic, Veselin Lecic, Mica Petrakovic, Dragoslav Krsmanovic, Dragisa Radic and Vladimir Pocic are charged with mutiny.
The members of the JSO, which was then part of the interior ministry, fully armed and with 24 combat vehicles, blocked the Gazela bridge in Belgrade in November 2001, demanding an end to the arrest and extradition of alleged war criminals to The Hague Tribunal.
The Special Operation Unit of the State Security, JSO, was formed in the 1990s on the order of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.
The unit was run by Jovica Stanisic, the Head of the State Security and Franko Simatovic, the Head of the Special Operation Unit, who are both indicted by the ICTY for murders, persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds and inhumane acts during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia in 1990s.
The JSO was active during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, usually performing secret operations for the state and allegedly committed mass killings in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
The unit was dissolved in 2003, when a number of members were either arrested or killed under mysterious circumstances. However, some of the members are still working for the state – either in the Special Police Unit or within the Ministries of Foreign and Internal Affairs.