News 26 Sep 13

Yugoslav President Kostunica ‘Inspired Armed Rebellion’

A former government official told the trial of ex-members of the police’s notorious Special Operations Unit that President Vojislav Kostunica inspired their armed uprising in 2001.

Marija Ristic

 Cedomir Jovanovic, Liberal Democratic Party leader

Photo by Beta

Former government official Cedomir Jovanovic, now the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, told the Belgrade trial of eight former members of the Special Operations Unit (JSO) on Wednesday that Kostunica was “the man behind the rebellion”.

“Vojislav Kostunica inspired the rebellion. He stands behind it. And because of that he did not feel threatened,” said Jovanovic, who in 2001 was vice-president.

The former JSO officers, including the commander Milorad Ulemek, then Zvezdan Jovanovic, Dusan Maricic, Veselin Lecic, Dragoslav Krsmanovic, Dragisa Radic, Vladimir Pocic and Mica Petrakovic are on trial over the rebellion in 2001.

In  November 2001, they blocked a main street in the Serbian capital and the road to the town of Vrbas, allegedly because the newly-installed democratic government had sent two JSO members, brothers Nenad and Predrag Banovic, to stand trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

However, Jovanovic claimed that there were other reasons behind their actions.

“The main objective of the rebellion was to bring down the national government and the JSO was the instrument of that,” he told the court on Wednesday.

He said that “their demands were politically identical” to those of Kostunica’s allies.

On Tuesday, Jovanovic also alleged that the 2001 rebellion was intended to destabilise the country and resulted directly in the murder of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003.

Following his testimony, one of the men’s defence lawyers, Bozo Prelevic, announced that he would ask the court to subpoena Kostunica and former state security boss Aco Tomic.

Srdja Popovic, a lawyer for Djindjic’s family, filed criminal charges against Kostunica and Tomic for their involvement in JSO rebellion, arguing that led to the premier’s murder, but the court dismissed the charges.

The JSO was formed in the 1990s on President Slobodan Milosevic’s orders and run by Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, who have been acquitted of war crimes by the Hague Tribunal.

The JSO carried out secret operations for the state and allegedly committed mass murders during the conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. It was disbanded in 2003.

The trial resumes on October 30.

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