Presidents asks for Ivanovic, others to be released

Tomislav Nikolic has called for Oliver Ivanovic and three other Serbs to be released from detention in Kosovska Mitrovica pending the outcome of their trial.

Source: Tanjug
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Nikolic said this would be “a confirmation of respect for basic human rights and impartiality of court proceedings,” the president’s press office said on Wednesday.

He pointed out that UNMIK had had already conducted proceedings against them, for the same criminal offenses, in 2002, and the court in charge had decided to discontinue the investigation since no evidence had been found to corroborate the accusations.

The president said that prosecution that two witnesses cross-examined in the current trial, Mentor Mehana and Bedzet Ferizi, had confirmed the claims by the defense that the defendants were not guilty of the crimes they had been charged with.

Nikolic said that to keep Ivanovic, a political leader of Serbs in Kosovo, and the other three men in detention despite the guarantees of the Serbian government that they would be available to judicial authorities at all times before and during the trial was inappropriate and was an abuse of their rights.

He observed that the length of their detention was in direct contradiction to a report of the OSCE Mission calling for ensuring better respect for the right to freedom and for reducing any deprivation of liberty and in particular detention on remand in criminal proceedings to the shortest time possible.

Nikolic said he would continue to follow the trial with great attention in the hope that the law would overpower political motives and that legal security would start being the same for all citizens in Kosovo.

The Serbian president also said that the possibility of seeing a case like that of the trial of Andjelko Kolasinac, who had spent more than four years in detention before the Prizren district court's acquitting him of all charges, was particularly worrying.

Ivanovic is charged with acting in his capacity as chief of the so-called Bridge Watchers group (who protected north Kosovska Mitrovica from intrusion by Albanian extremists from the southern part of the city) and ordering the murder of four ethnic Albanians that occurred in the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica on April 14, 1999 (during the armed conflict in Kosovo and NATO bombing of Serbia).

The SDP leader is also charged with being responsible for the murder of ten ethnic Albanians in the northern part of the city during unrest on February 3, 2000, sparked off by an incident in which a bomb was thrown into a cafe in north Mitrovica, causing injuries to at least 14 Serbs.

The four other Serb defendants are Dragoljub Delibasic, father and son Ilija and Nebojsa Vujacic and Aleksandar Lazovic. They are charged with committing the crimes of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder in February 2000.

Ilija Vujacic has been allowed to conduct his defense without being placed in custody because of his old age and deteriorated health.

Ivanovic is facing a sentence of between five years and a lifetime in prison.

The trial started on December 18 last year and all the accused pleaded not guilty.

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