Kosovo Serb Politician Ivanovic’s Custody Extended
Oliver Ivanovic, who is on trial for war crimes and ordering the killings of Kosovo Albanians, has been remanded for another two months despite a new plea from the Serbian president.
|Ivanovic in court. Photo: Beta.|
Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic said that Ivanovic’s release from detention would be “a confirmation of respect for basic human rights and impartiality of court proceedings”.
Nikolic said that the Serbian government had offered guarantees that Ivanovic would attend court when asked if released, so to keep him in custody represented “an abuse of justice”.
A former Serbian government official and head of a Kosovo Serb political party called Freedom, Democracy, Justice, Oliver Ivanovic is accused of war crimes by ordering the murder of ethnic Albanians in Mitrovica on April 14, 1999 during the NATO bombing, when he was allegedly the leader of a paramilitary police unit.
He is also accused, along with another person, of inciting the killing of ethnic Albanians during unrest that erupted after the war on February 3, 2000, when many Albanians were driven from their homes.
Two set of witnesses this week testified that they saw Ivanovic in uniform in 1999, contrary to his insistence that he never wore military clothing during the conflict.
The latest witness to testify on Thursday, Faik Hyseni, said he saw Ivanovic wearing a paramilitary jacket during the war.
“He was wearing sports clothes and he had same jacket as the other 500 paramilitaries in Mitrovica had as a uniform,” Hyseni testified. But he said he never heard Ivanovic give an order.
On Wednesday, an Albanian couple, Zeqir and Nurije Alija from Gjakova/Djakovica, testified that they were travelling to Montenegro in 1999 when their bus was stopped by two men in “military or paramilitary” clothing. They said they later realised that one of them was Ivanovic after seeing him on television when he was an MP in Kosovo’s parliament.
A third witness on Wednesday, teacher Florije Peci, testified that she heard that Ivanovic committed crimes in 1999 but never saw him do so.
This caused Ivanovic’s lawyer, Nebojsa Vlajic, to say that the prosecution witnesses were failing to prove the defendant’s guilt.
“None of the witnesses so far could confirm the indictment against my client,” Vlajic told BIRN.
Four other defendants, Dragoljub Delibasic, Aleksandar Lazovic, and father and son Ilija and Nebojsa Vujacic, also face charges of murder or attempted murder.
All of them have pleaded not guilty.
The trial will continue on March 11.