"Key evidence in Curuvija murder case barely accepted"

Source: Cenzolovka
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(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

If closing arguments begin during the continuation of the trial for the murder of Slavko Curuvija, the Deputy Prosecutor will have the opportunity to highlight some of the most important evidence.

According to Cenzolovka, the court has barely accepted this evidence and states that these are data from mobile telephone base stations that say that Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak were near the crime scene, that they intensively communicated with Milan Radonjic, and that its quotes a duty officer's diary, who says that Radonjic also announced "other measures."

After several announcements and postponements from September to the present, and almost seven months of fierce debate over several strange decisions of the court, it is possible that the closing arguments in the trial for the murder the journalist Slavko Curuvija finally begin during tomorrow's (Thursday's) continuation of the three-year process.

In April, the defense of the accused and three-member trial chamber (President Snezana Jovanovic, Vladimir Mesarovic and Dragan Milosevic) tried to exclude from the evidence the most important evidence in this case.

It firstly concerns the part of the tapes that carry data from the base stations of mobile telephony from the center of Belgrade, which show the location of the accused, and with whom they had communicated with before, on the day of the murder, and after the murder of Curuvija on April 11, 1999.

The testimony of Dragan Kecman was also controversial. Kecman is a policeman who investigated Curuvija's murder since the first day, collected key evidence and after almost 16 years of investigationwrote a criminal complaint against the accused, until in November, after a sudden turn, the trial panel did not allow his testimony.

Statements from the investigative procedure of the two deceased witnesses, which are extraordinarily important for clarifying this case, the court chamber also wanted to exclude from the proceedings. These are the testimonies of Zoran Pavic, the chief of the 9th (adjacent) division of the CRDB Belgrade, and Cvijetin Milinkovic, the duty officer on the day of the murder of Curuvija, who recorded in the log (see annex) everything that happened while a shift from the 9th Department of the RDB (a total of 27 intelligence officers) followed the journalist practically until the murder itself.

During that time, the Appellate Court dismissed the decisions of the first instance court three times and returned them for reconsideration, arguing that evidence such as tapes from base stations and statements by police officers about questionings of the now deceased members of RDB members Milinkovic and Pavic should not be excluded from this process.

Radonjic to Milinkovic: We may apply another measure

Therefore - if there are no new procedural proposals and sudden maneuvers of participants in this process, it is possible that the closing arguments could begin at tomorrow's hearing. (the proceedings were postponed on Thursday for Dec. 25 - B92)

This would mean that the Prosecutor, the lawyers of the children of Slavko Curuvija Jelena and Rade, and Branka Prpa, who was with Curuvija on the day of the murder, the defense counsel of the accused and, ultimately, the indictees themselves could speak for an hour each - the limit set by Snezana Jovanovic.

In that case, Milenko Mandic, the first to speak would be the deputy prosecutor for organized crime, who signed the indictment against the four defendants - former Chief of the State Security Department Radomir Markovic, Chief of the CRDB Belgrade Milan Radonjic, former chief intelligence inspector in the Second Administration of the RDB Ratko Romic, and a member of the RDB reserves Miroslav Kurak, who is being tried in absentia.

Mandic should confirm the validity of the most important evidence that indicate that this, as the indictment says, was "an organized criminal group, in which each member had a predetermined task and role", "on the order of unknown persons from the highest structures of power", "took the life of Slavko Curuvija with premeditation."

Since June 2015, when the trial began, Mandic has presented dozens of witnesses from public and state security, as well as material evidence to show how the four members of the Service organized and committed this crime in the midst of the NATO bombing.

Among the most important material evidence are the data from mobile phone base stations that were recently presented before the court. Journalists did not have the opportunity to see them, as reports on the expertise of these data followed one another on the courtroom's screens very quickly, so the public was not made more familiar with them.

According to the deputy prosecutor, this is data that proves that on April 10, 1999, on the day when, according to the indictment, the liquidation of the journalists was planned, the indictees had intense communication, and that, while that day, Curuvija had a lunch and a walk Prpa in the center of Belgrade, Romic and Kurak were located near the where Curuvija lived, in 35 Svetogorska St. (at that time the street was called Ive Lola Ribara).

On that day, April 10, the team that followed Curuvija and Prpa failed to report in time to the head of the Belgrade-based center RDB Milan Radonjic that they were returning from their walk and entering the apartment.

Radonjic was appointed to this duty only a few days before this crime and one of his first orders - in the midst of the bombing - was a verbal order to Zoran Pavic to watch the journalist 24 hours a day. To Pavic, whom he himself set himself appointed as chief of the 9th Department a few days earlier, which is of crucial importance for this case.

The deputy prosecutor took presented several witnesses who confirmed what he claims in the indictment - that Radonjic called Zoran Pavic and Dragan Pavic (who led this surveillance) and criticized them for not reporting frequently enough. He asked them to report each minute the following day, April 11, on literally each change in Curuvija's movements.

Several witnesses during the trial confirmed Mandic's allegations from the indictment that such a way of work of the accompanying department was very unusual, and that in this job was not done in this way either before or after.

On the following day, April 11, they reported very often the duty officer in the CRDB Belgrade, Cvijetin Milinkovic, who reported to Radonjic about everything, and wrote the most important changes in the duty log.

Milinkovic wrote in the duty log in at 16.07 (hours): "NC (head of the center) is calling, I'm conveying this to him. Order - he is to be told immediately if they go home, we might even apply some other measure, he says. I immediately conveyed to NO/IX to without fail report if the object goes home."

The only legal "other measure" in these conditions could be the arrest or detention of the one who is being monitored. However, Slavko Curuvija was killed some half an hour later.

At 16.25, as Milinkovic entered the duty log, Radonjic ordered a sudden stop of the monitoring.

At the time, Slavko Curuvija and Branka Prpa were in Makedonska Street, somewhere between the Politika building and Radio Belgrade, near the entrance to what is today Svetogorska Street.

Obviously, it took several minutes for this order to be carried out. Namely, the police estimated that Curuvija was killed between 16.39 and 16.45 hours, but from Radio Belgrade to the passage in 35 Svetogorska, where the crime was committed, it only takes about four to five minutes of normal walk.

The order on discontinuation of the following was not carried out very effectively. Namely, at least two of the followers of Curuvija, the so-called pedestrians, did not hear or understand this order well, so they also entered the Ive Lola Ribara (Svetogorska) Street after Curuvija and Prpa.

The leader of this "pedestrian" team, Svetozar Mircevic, who drove one of the two cars that picked up the 9th Department members (a gray Opel Astra), intercepted the two "pedestrians" just in the vicinity of the corner with Vlajkoviceva Street, i.e., across the Atelje 212. One of "pedestrians" Sasa Djurdjevic, followed Curuvija all the way to Atelje 212, where Mircevic approached him with a gesture and showed that the following was interrupted and to immediately get in the Opel. True, there are hints that he was following them all way to the scene of the crime, but in the court, where witnesses often seemed confused or did not remember very much of anything - this has not been confirmed.

They, therefore, passed Curuvija and Prpa in Svetogorska, at the level of the restaurant "57", passed by the killers, too (about which they did not testify, i.e., said they did not seen them), and stopped at a traffic light near Takovska Street, when Mircevic saw Curuvija and Prpa in the rear view mirror as they entered the passage number 35. At that time, he used the car radio to send out the code, "47 on", which, according to the service code, means that the object being tracked is entering the building where they reside.

Only a few seconds later Curuvija was killed in that passage. Mircevic did not say in court that he saw the killers in the rear view mirror. All together, the head of the shift, Nebojsa Sokovic, reacted nervously to his report, immediately ordering over the radio: "Let that go, let that go!"

Sokovic, who drove the second car with the "pedestrians", also passed by Slavko Curuvija, before turning from then Ive Lole Ribara Street to Vlajkoviceva, then to Kosovska, then to Takovska, to then drive to what was then the trolley turnabout next to Kalemegdan (at the end of Kneza Mihailova Street).

Dragan Kecman, testifying before the court, gave his information that there, when the news that Curuvija was murdered reached them, the people who followed him said: "Ass against the wall, nobody say anything."

Both cars - Sokovic's and Mircevic's - had to pass next to the killers: Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak, according to the indictment, were waiting near the intersection with Palmoticeva Street, near the passage to the building in which Curuvija lived.

Whether the "pedestrians" saw the killers will remain a secret, at least for this panel of judges.

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