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Montenegrin court resumes 2016 'coup' trials

Special prosecutor to present evidence of alleged Russian involvement in attempt to overthrow Montenegrin government

06.09.2017 - Update : 07.09.2017
Montenegrin court resumes 2016 'coup' trials

By Ilker Girit


Montenegrin prosecutors are seeking to prove that Russian intelligence was involved in a plan to overthrow the tiny Balkan state’s government in October last year.

The trial of 14 people accused of involvement in an alleged plot to destabilize the country ahead of its joining NATO, resumed on Wednesday in the capital, Podgorica.

It will be the first time new evidence regarding Moscow’s alleged involvement is heard in open court.

Two alleged Russian intelligence agents are being tried in absentia. The twelve remaining suspects include two Montenegrin opposition leaders and a former Serbian police chief.

The High Court in Podgorica in April confirmed the indictments on charges of attempting to overthrow the government of the then-premier, Milo Djukanovic.

Alleged Russian agents Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov were accused of supporting a network of Serbian and Montenegrin citizens who planned to assassinate Djukanovic.

The case began after the former commander of a top Serbian police unit, Bratislav Dikic, was arrested in Montenegro on election day, Oct. 16, last year.

Opposition leaders Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, who are charged with criminal association and undermining the constitutional order, are also among the suspects. Montenegrin lawmakers have voted to strip them of parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

The Democratic Front, the main opposition party in Montenegro, has denied the allegations, claiming the government has fabricated the case to stay in power.

Moscow also denied claims of its involvement. Following Montenegro's entry to NATO, the Kremlin hit out at what it called the country's "anti-Russian hysteria".

Montenegro, which broke from Serbia in 2007, joined NATO in June despite Russian criticisms of the former Yugoslav republic’s move.

Other counties have got involved in the row. Speaking in Podgorica last month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said: "Here in the Western Balkans, Russia has been trying to destabilize the region, undermining democracy and sharing you between each other and the rest of Europe."

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