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news 04 May 17

Trial Due to Open Over Montenegro Coup Plot

The trial of two Montenerin opposition leaders and 12 others over an alleged coup attempt may start this week, if and when the court confirms the charges.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
The leaders of the pro-Russian alliance Democratic Front. Photo: The Democratic Front/Facebook.

The trial in Montenegro in the alleged coup case is scheduled to open on Friday once the High Court in Podgorica confirms the indictment against 14 people, including the two opposition leaders, 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 of the then-premier, Milo Djukanovic, to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

Both politicians are charged with "criminal association" with a view to "committing terrorist acts" and undermining the constitutional order, according to the court's statement.

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 last October’s alleged coup plot.

The indictees include the former commander of an elite Serbian police unit, the Gendarmerie, Bratislav Dikic, arrested in Montenegro on October 16, and Russian military intelligence officers Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov

The indictment of about a hundred pages does not directly link the Montenegrin politicians to the two Russians -  still at large - 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 said after the indictment was made public.

The Special Prosecutor has said that “Russian state bodies” were involved in the alleged coup.

However, Russia has denied involvement in the alleged coup attempt in Montenegro, while supporting the Democratic Front and other opposition groups which oppose NATO membership and champion closer ties to the Kremlin.

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