A court in Spain has approved the extradition of a man convicted of killing former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003.
Vladimir Milisavljevic was detained in Valencia last February, together with three other alleged members of a feared Serbian criminal gang, Zemun.
He had been convicted in absentia in 2007 of conspiring to kill Mr Djindjic, who was shot by a sniper in March 2003.
Milisavljevic has also been convicted of 14 other murders and two abductions.
He was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a court in Serbia for the part he played in the assassination of the pro-Western prime minister. Eleven others were convicted at the same trial.
Prosecutors argued that Mr Djindjic had been targeted because of his decision to send ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to be tried on war crimes charges in The Hague, and for his attempts to crack down on organised crime.
The Zemun gang, in which Milisavljevic was allegedly a senior member, was born out of Arkan’s Tigers, a Serbian paramilitary unit which gained a reputation for brutality during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Despite the assassination in 2000 of its leader, Arkan, the group is alleged to have become one of the most powerful organised criminal gangs in Serbia.
Milisavljevic was detained along with the alleged gang leader, Luka Bojovic, and two others. The group were carrying guns and a large sum in cash.
One of the four has already been extradited while the case against Bojovic is pending.
(Good article on background of assassination):
Serbia’s former Red Berets are again under fire for Djindjic’s murder
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade — 26/03/12
Serbia’s President Boris Tadic and Ruzica Djindjic, the widow of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, attend a memorial service marking the ninth anniversary of his assassination in Belgrade. [Reuters]
Nine years after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, the family and their lawyer are questioning if all those responsible for the murder have been brought to justice.
Djindjic was slain by a member of an elite police unit — founded by Slobodan Milosevic — outside Serbia’s main government building on March 12th 2003. Former State Security Colonel Milorad Ulemek, known as Legija, and former State Security Vice Colonel Zvezdan Jovanovic were sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder.
Jovanovic was a member of the Red Berets special operations unit (JSO) established by Milosevic in the 1990s. Members of the so-called Zemun Clan were also convicted of involvement in the assassination.
Djindjic family lawyer Srdja Popovic told SETimes that the political instigator of the assassination was in the 2001 Red Berets uprising.
According to Popovic, some witnesses spoke of former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica’s participation in the JSO rebellion. „There are testimonies given during the investigation that cast doubt on the participation of Kostunica, and the prosecution knows it,“ Popovic said.
The JSO members uprising started on November 8th 2001, and lasted nine days, ending on November 17th.
In 2010, Popovic filed criminal reports over the JSO rebellion. Apart from the members and commanders of the special unit, including the primary inductees for the assassination, Legija and Jovanovic, reports were also filed against Kostunica, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS).
The report against Kostunica was filed because „contrary to the constitution, as the commander of the state armed forces, he did not end the uprising of the special operations unit.“
The prosecutor’s office for organised crime pressed charges against eight of the former Red Berets for organising the armed rebellion on March 9th. No charges were pressed against Kostunica, since his involvement was not proven, said the prosecutor.
„The evidence puts suspicion on Kostunica; there are testimonies in the Djindjic murder case. Let’s just remember that Kostunica wholeheartedly supported the JSO during the rebellion. There was a big conflict over the delivery of Milosevic to The Hague tribunal, which Kostunica opposed, along with co-operating with the tribunal. Kostunica was trying to obstruct Djindjic at every step,“ Popovic said.
Kostunica’s representatives, now the government opposition, are dismissing any connection between their leader, the JSO rebellion, and the Djindjic assassination.
„The case was closed with the dismissal of the criminal report. Further accusations are pointless,“ opposition LSD party spokesman Petar Petkovic told SETimes.
Popovic also said that Kostunica, on coming to power and taking up the post of prime minister after Djindjic’s death, put a stop to all reforms, including Djindjic’s new concept of Serbia in Europe.
„People were given some hope, saw a goal, direction. Only the EU integration concept is left from his legacy,“ Popovic said.
Djindjic is still being remembered. On March 10th, 20,000 Belgrade citizens took part in the „Walk for Zoran“, a march in his memory, organised by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The walk was led by Djindjic’s former aide and current LDP President Cedomir Jovanovic, who said that Serbia has to face the truth of the political background of the assassination.
„It is an obligation of the state to carry out that task and fully shed light on the political background, because one cannot escape the truth,“ Jovanovic said.
„Years have passed, but that does not diminish the importance of the ideas promoted by Zoran Djindjic. This walk is an expression of respect for Zoran, as well as readiness to do the job for which he gave his life,“ he added.
One of the participants, Dragan Borisavljevic, 41, a medical doctor from Belgrade, told SETimes that Serbia would have become a completely different country had Djindjic lived.
„We would certainly be where Croatia is now; there would be no more unresolved issues, and we would be moving forward, like the rest of the normal world,“ Borisavljevic said.