Slavko Curuvija. Photo: Slavko Curuvija Foundation / Predrag Mitic.
The Belgrade Higher Court on Thursday found four former Serbian state security workers guilty after a retrial in the 1999 murder of journalist and editor Slavko Curuvija, known for his opposition to the Slobodan Milosevic regime.
Former Serbian state security chief Radomir Markovic and security service officer Milan Radonjic were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, while secret service agents Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Each sentenced to 20 years in prison. The verdict can be appealed.
The court found that Markovic had informed Radonjic of the journalist’s assassination plan, and Radonjic had made a deal with Romic and Kurak to kill Curuvija.
Curuvija was assassinated in Belgrade in April 1999, allegedly because of his opposition to Yugoslav President Milosevic. He was shot 12 times in the back in front of the building in which he lived in Belgrade.
Before being killed, he had openly criticized Milosevic, openly accusing him of war crimes and leading an oppressive regime.
The indictment initially stated that an “unknown person” had ordered the murder of Curuvija and that Markovic, the former head of Serbian State Security, had encouraged the crime, while three former service agents security forces – Rmic, Radonjic and Kurak – had participated in the organization and execution of the murder.
Judge Snezana Jovanovic said the retrial has again established that the person who actually shot the journalist remains unknown, as Curuvija’s partner Branka Prpa, who was with him when he was murdered, did not could not identify the killer.
“It was established that the direct perpetrator was an unknown person through the testimony of Branka Prpa, who was also at the scene and was injured,” Judge Jovanovic said.
The Slavko Curuvija Foundation said the verdict “once again unequivocally confirms that the murder of Slavko Curuvija was state-organized”, and described it as “an important step in the fight against motivated crime. policy of the Slobodan Milosevic regime ”.
“With today’s verdict, the court sent a message that the perpetrators of attacks on journalists for what they have said publicly are not untouchable, even decades later,” added the foundation.
The indictment initially claimed that Kurak was the direct perpetrator. But the trial verdict in April 2019 said the journalist was killed by a stranger rather than Kurak. This prompted the Belgrade Court of Appeal to overturn the original verdict and order a new trial.
When the new trial began, three of the suspects again pleaded not guilty, while Kurak is on the run and was tried in absentia.
Markovic is already serving a 40-year prison sentence for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and other crimes, while Romic was acquitted alongside Radonjic in September 2017 of the attempted murder of party leader opposition Vuk Draskovic.
The initial trial sparked controversy, with judges twice trying to dismiss potentially crucial evidence – the tapes of cell phone communications between Secret Service agents – which the prosecution said placed them at the scene of the crime. However, their decision was overturned each time.