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news 09 Jun 17

Montenegro Opposition Leaders to Stand Trial in Coup Case

Two pro-Russian opposition leaders in Montenegro will go on trial over their role in an alleged coup plot, although they continue to insist that the case was staged to discredit them.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 
One of the leaders of the opposition Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic, said the alleged plot was staged. Photo: nova.org.

Two opposition leaders, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, said on Thursday that they are facing a political prosecution in Montenegro after the higher court confirmed their indictment over the alleged attempt to overthrow the government last October.

Both politicians are charged with "criminal association" with a view to "committing terrorist acts" and undermining the constitutional order, and face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Montenegro's higher court on Thursday confirmed prosecution indictments against 14 people, including two Russians charged with masterminding the coup attempt, allegedly aimed at preventing Montenegro from joining NATO.

Russian nationals Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, who will be tried in absentia, have been indicted for various criminal offences, terrorism and acts against the constitutional order of Montenegro, a court statement said.

Mandic, one of the leaders of the strongest opposition alliance, the Democratic Front, said the alleged plot was staged to discredit his party and denied any criminal wrongdoing.

"Now we can only ask about the jail term as we already have been convicted... This is a political indictment and a political process," another indicted politician, Milan Knezevic, told reporters on Thursday.

“They decided to offer us as the gift on the altar of NATO integration," Knezevic said.

On April 13, the Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime, Milivoje Katnic, filed an indictment against 14 others, including nine Serbian citizens, accusing them of having played roles in the alleged coup plot during the October election.

The indictees also include the former commander of Bratislav Dikic, an elite Serbian police unit, the Gendarmerie, who was arrested in Montenegro on October 16.

However the indictment, which runs to about 100 pages, does not directly link the Montenegrin politicians to the two Russians who were accused of organising the plot.

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

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

Russia strongly objected to Montenegro joining NATO, as it did this week, and has threatened unspecified retaliation.

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