Trial for murder of Slavko Curuvija begins in Belgrade
The trial of four former members of the State Security (DB) suspected of the murder of Slavko Curuvija has started before Belgrade's Special Court on Monday.Source: B92, Tanjug
The journalist and publisher was gunned down in front of his home in April 1999.
The suspects include former head of DB Radomir Markovic, chief of the DB Belgrade center Milan Radonjic and chief intelligence inspector with the DB's department Ratko Romic, while member of the DB reserve staff Miroslav Kurak will be tried in absentia, as he is on the run and an international arrest warrant has been issued against him.
The Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime charged the defendants with killing Curuvija "for base motives” on April 11, 1999. If convicted for an aggravated murder, they will face between 30 and 40 years in prison.
Markovic is charged with inciting the crime and others of executing it.
All three defendants in the courtroom today pleaded not guilty and said they would present their defense.
Addressing the court, the prosecutor said that the accused "murdered Curuvija because of his public statements in the country and abroad and criticism of the carriers of political power, but also the possibility that he would influence the public opinion."
The ruling coalition in Serbia at the time was made up of the SPS, JUL, and the SRS.
The trial will be open to the media, and court will hear testimonies of over 90 prosecution witnesses.
The trial for the murder of Slavko Curuvija has historic significance because so far no murder of journalists in Serbia has been solved, Veran Matic, who heads a government commission set up to investigate these cases, commented on Monday.
There are similar trends elsewhere in the world, with a growing number of journalists and unsolved murders of journalists, he added.
"That is why the United Nations have launched a campaign to fight against impunity, conducted also by almost all the international journalists' associations. Only in Serbia a further step has been made by establishing the Commission for Investigation of Murders of Journalists, in order for representatives of relevant institutions and journalists to join forces, and make concrete contribution to solving the murders. With the help of the Commission, the case of the murder of Slavko Curuvija has been brought to trial, which starts today," Matic remarked, and added:
"This trial will break the cycle of impunity, will show everyone that violence against journalists dooes not always have to be the cheapest form of stopping free speech, that it is unacceptable that government officials issue orders and carry out the executions of journalists, that that any form of threats and endangering the safety of journalists is impermissible."
Matic believes hat the Commission's work on this case has contributed to strengthening those institutions of the system whose basic task is to ensure security of citizens and effectively sanction offenders.
"At the same time, it testifies to the need for journalists themselves, even when faced with the most difficult challenges to their profession and themselves, to show more personal and professional commitment and solidarity."
"Generally speaking, our society lacks much more systematic dealing with the crimes that were committed against our citizens in the recent past, as well as the citizens of other countries, through trials and reviewing of the role of both individuals and institutions. Only in this way can the foundations be made and strengthened of democratic institutions that guarantee a democratic nature of society," Matic concluded.