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B92 Focus, March 2003.


Dragnet continues

Former police leaders arrested in hunt for killers
| March 24, 2003.

Among those arrested in the wake of the murder of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on March 12, are the former head of State Security, Jovica Stanisic, and his assistant Franko “Frankie” Simatovic. This information has been confirmed for TV B92 by Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, but there has been no information as to whether they are among the thousand-odd suspects who have been remanded in custody. B92 has prepared brief biographies of Stanisic and Simatovic

Jovica Stanisic
Jovica Stanisic was born in 1950 in Backa Palanka, as was Milosevic-era Customs Director Mihalj Kertes, with whom he later worked closely.

He graduated from the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade University in 1974 and immediately began working for the secret police.  As a young intelligence officer he took part in the arrest of terrorist Sanchez “Carlos” Ramirez in Belgrade’s Hotel Metropol.

He was involved in the 1987 visit of Slobodan Milosevic to Gazimestan in Kosovo, where the nationalist leader sealed his grip on power.  Stanisic was subsequently appointed deputy head and finally director of the State Security Service.

His activities over the past decade are unclear, but his name has often been mentioned in connection with key events in Serbia and the former Yugoslav republics.  He has been given credit for arming Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, the release of Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic from a Croatian prison in 1991, the establishment of dummy opposition parties and the recruiting of criminals for special units active in battlefields throughout the former Yugoslavia.

He stepped onto the international stage in 1995 when, as Milosevic’s special envoy, he negotiated the release of 120 international peacekeepers held as hostages in Pale, in order to prevent the bombing of the Republic of Srpska.  The same year he travelled to Dayton, Ohio, as a member of the Serb negotiating team.

He was reported to have fallen out with Milosevic the following year when he advised him to acknowledge an opposition win in local government elections, arguing that the coalition between Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic would not last long.  He also fell out with the Yugoslav Left, the neo-communist party run by Milosevic’s wife, over the same issue, after the Left called for a radical showdown with protesters.

Media have claimed his personal friends included former state media director Milorad Vucelic as well as the late prime minister, Zoran Djindjic.  None have ever denied these claims.  Djindjic himself praised Stanisic’s decision to refuse an order by former prime minister Mirko Marjanovic to arrest him because the arrest would have been illegal.

He was removed as head of State Security in 1998 without explanation.  Media speculated at the time that he was against the use of excessive force in Kosovo and had also fallen out with both Milosevic’s wife and then police minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic.

Stanisic himself has never commented on his dumping apart from a brief statement saying that under his leadership the secret police had operated within their constitutional and legal authority.  Milosevic subsequently appointed him national security advisor and, in that capacity, he accompanied the former Yugoslav president to China in 1998.

After the October 5, 2000, revolution, Stanisic became an honorary member of the Social Democratic Party led by former Yugoslav president Zoran Lilic.

Stanisic last year sued Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj for libel over claims that he was protecting the killer of Belgrade police chief Bosko Buha.  He was last seen in public last year when media claimed that Hague Tribunal investigators had searched his house for evidence against Slobodan Milosevic.

There were rumours at the time that Stanisic had handed over documentary evidence damaging to Milosevic and agree to testify against him, claims he has consistently denied.

He was ordered to pay tax of 270,000 Deutschmarks (135,000 euros) in 2001 in a state swoop on people who had made excessive profits under the patronage of the Milosevic regime.

Franko “Frankie” Simatovic
There are few personal details available about Simatovic.

He is known to have graduated from the Police Academy and the Faculty of Political Science at Belgrade University, where he met Stanisic.

Together with Radovan “Badza” Stojicic, later murdered in a Belgrade restaurant, he created an armed division of the secret police, the Special Operations Unit, known as the Red Berets, of which he was the first commander.

Although the information has never been confirmed, he is believed to have recruited widely among criminals for the unit.

He led the Red Berets until Rade Markovic, who was jailed last year, took the helm of State Security and was subsequently replaced in that position by Milorad “Legija” Lukovic, one of the prime suspects in the Djindjic assassination.

Little was heard of him in public subsequently until his arrest together with Stanisic last week.

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