Witnesses at the trial for the murder of the Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic expressed reluctance to repeat previous testimony in which they accused alleged members of a Serb criminal gang of wrongdoing.

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Kosovo Murder Trial Witnesses Nervous About Accusing Serb Gang

The Oliver Ivanovic murder trial at the Pristina Basic Court on Tuesday. Photo: BIRN.

Two witnesses at the trial for the 2018 killing of Kosovo Serb political party leader Oliver Ivanovic at the Pristina Basic Court on Tuesday showed reluctance to confirm previous testimonies they gave to the prosecution in which they named alleged members of organised criminal groups that operate in the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo.

The first witness, Radmila Rajcic, said in the testimony she gave to the prosecution in December 2018 that “Ivanovic was murdered by the same criminal group [led by Milan Radojicic]” as her son.

In court on Tuesday, however, the witness refused to repeat the allegation.

“I am not sure, I do not deny my testimony but that was only my opinion,” she said when she was asked about her previous statement, claiming that what she said was based on rumours and not on what she knew for certain.

Powerful Kosovo Serb businessman Milan Radojicic is vice-president of the main Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb party, Srpska Lista. The indictment in the Ivanovic case accused him of being the leader of the criminal organised group that organised the murder in January 2018, together with Kosovo Serb businessman Zvonko Veselinovic. They have both denied any involvement and neither man is on trial.

All the witnesses so far in the trial have been reluctant to confirm previous testimonies about the alleged organised criminal group led by Radojicic.

Four of the defendants in the trial – Marko Rosic, Silvana Arsovic, Rade Basara and Nedeljko Spasojevic – are accused of being members of the joint criminal enterprise that murdered Ivanovic.

Two police officers, Dragisa Markovic and Zarko Jovanovic, are also on trial, accused of evidence-tampering in the case. All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Witness Rajic also told the court on Tuesday that “I do not know any of the policemen here”, referring to the accused.

However, during her testimony she revealed she had tried to initiate criminal charges against several policemen who she believed had neglected their duties when it came to solving her own son’s murder case. The policemen included one of the accused in the Ivanovic trial, Rade Basara.

The second witness on Tuesday, Dragan Jablanovic, was the mayor of the Serb-majority municipality of Leposavic until December 2017, a month before Ivanovic’s murder.

Jablanovic was also reluctant to repeat the testimony he gave to prosecutors when he was first questioned in 2019.

He had mentioned one occasion when he was prevented from entering his office by at least five unidentified people, who told him that “Milan Radojicic paid us 1,000 euros each to not let you enter your office”.

On Tuesday, however, Jablanovic declined to mention Radojicic, saying that “I was not told who paid them but only that they were paid 1,000 euros each to prevent me from entering the office”.

Jablanovic, from the Kosovo Serbs Party (Partija Kosovskih Srba), also told the court about political intimidation in northern Kosovo in the period before Ivanovic’s killing.

He said that, like Ivanovic, whose car was set on fire, he received threats from representatives of the Belgrade-backed Sprska Lista during the 2017 municipal election campaign.

He said that an explosive device was thrown at his house and that activists from his political party were followed and beaten up by those from Srpska Lista.

“None of us in Leposavic was feeling safe [after Ivanovic’s car was torched],” he said.

Ivanovic was once seen as a hardline nationalist, but before his death had evolved into a political moderate who advocated coexistence between Kosovo’s Serb minority and Albanian majority. He had also become increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Belgrade government.

At the time of his death, he was being retried for ordering the murder of Kosovo Albanians during the war in Kosovo in 1999. He pleaded not guilty.

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