The Court of Appeal in Belgrade has launched the main trial that will be followed by the issuing of a binding final verdict in the case of the murder of journalist and publisher Slavko Ćuruvija. The four accused former members of the State Security Services have already been convicted by the court of first-instance, on two occasions, to a total of 100 years behind bars.
For security reasons, the venue for the trial hearing was switched from the Court of Appeal to the so-called Special Court, due to the five-member panel of judges having called as a witness Milorad Ulemek, aka Legija [Legionnaire], the former commander of the notorious Special Operations Unit that was under the command of the State Security Services. Ulemek, together with brothers Aleksandar and Miloš Simović, who have also been called to testify, were transported to the courthouse from the prison where they are currently serving lengthy terms for various serious crimes, including the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.
Speaking during the investigation into the murder nine years ago, Ulemek stated that he had knowledge that defendants Ratko Romić and Miroslav Kurak were behind Ćuruvija’s murder. Now, in testifying before the Court of Appeal, Ulemek refused to answer the questions of the panel of judges, the prosecution and the defence, but did state that he stood by everything he’d said in the investigation and testified to earlier before the court. The Simović brothers – who stated during the investigation that they’d heard that Romić and Kurak were behind the murder and that they had even been tasked with assassinating Kurak “because he has a loose tongue” – also declined to answer questions and refused to participate in the process.
Previous testimony was given by Branka Prpa, the only direct witness to the murder, who stuck to her earlier claim that the killer she saw did not resemble Miroslav Kurak, who the indictment accuses of having shot Slavko Ćuruvija.
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