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Serbia court acquits former spies convicted of killing journalist

By AFP

February 2, 2024 10:02 PM


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A Serbian appeals court acquitted four former intelligence officers convicted of the brutal 1999 murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, a fierce critic of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The ruling overturned the group's previous convictions in 2021, which saw the group handed multi-decade prison sentences.

"The Court of Appeals -- in the absence of direct and indirect evidence that would reliably confirm that the defendants Markovic, Radonjic, Kurak and Romic, the perpetrators of this criminal act -- finds that the allegations of the accusation have not been proven beyond a doubt," read a statement by the court.

In 2021, a special court sentenced former secret police chief Radomir Markovic and the head of Belgrade's intelligence branch Milan Radonjic to 30 years in prison, while two other intelligence officers were handed 20-year sentences.

An earlier court ruling had found the four guilty in 2019, but that decision was overturned and a retrial ordered.

Curuvija was one of the most critical voices in Serbia in the 1990s, attracting a wide readership as the owner and editor of two leading independent publications.

He was shot 13 times in front of his Belgrade home during the NATO bombing campaign that was launched in response to the Milosevic government's brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

The journalist was killed just days after pro-government media outlets accused him of being a "traitor" and of calling on NATO to bomb Serbia.

Following the court of appeals' decision, media groups and opposition parties slammed the ruling.

"It is a clear sign that the state is not able to deal with the darkest parts of its own services from the nineties and that they still have a huge influence on both the judiciary and the political processes in Serbia," the Slavko Curuvija Foundation, a media rights group named after the slain journalist, said on social media.

The Movement of Free Citizens, a political party in a leading opposition coalition, said the ruling proved "the entire state apparatus and all branches of government are being used to defend the regime of Slobodan Milosevic".

The slain's daughter Jelena Curuvija told broadcaster N1 that the ruling was "a clear, frightening message to all journalists".

Journalists have long been targeted in Serbia, where reporters and editors critical of the authorities have been assaulted and intimidated.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who served as information minister under Milosevic, regularly berates reporters during his near-daily public addresses.


AFP


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