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The case of the burned embassies: Nine years without answers

Belgrade High Court postponed today the beginning of the repeated trial for burning the US embassy in Belgrade and rescheduled it for 8th May.

The High Court decided to postpone the trial for the burning of the US embassy which occurred on 21st February 2008 during the protest “Kosovo is Serbia”. However, it is still unclear who ordered the police to pull back and stop protecting the US and German embassies.

Protest that turned into riot

The protest “Kosovo is Serbia” was organized by Serbian parties as a reaction to unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo. During the protest, police stopped protecting the embassies of the US and Germany for half an hour during which protestors set these diplomatic missions on fire.

Despite the fact that the accused perpetrators are on trial, after nine years there is only a preliminary investigation about who ordered the police to pull back and stop protecting the embassies.

Serbian authorities have promised on numerous occasions that they will investigate and prosecute those responsible for pulling back the police. However, the investigation is still in its initial phase.

The Public Prosecutor’s office said to journalists of Insajder.net that the investigation on responsibility has begun in 2014.

“As the investigation is not over yet, the Public Prosecution cannot answer the questions related to this case. When we finish the investigation, the public will be notified”, the Prosecution office told Insajder.

As Insajder.net previously discovered and published in the serial “Power(less) state”, the police got an order at 18:25 on 21st February to pull back and let the hooligans attack and burn the embassies. Those that burned the German embassy were never discovered by the official authorities.

For years, apart from the public in Serbia, the US and German officials have demanded answers from the Serbian authorities on why the embassies were not protected, whether  the police was ordered to pull back, and who commanded the police at that moment.

Determination of responsibility in this case is one of the demands of Bundestag parliamentary group CDU/CSU. Also, this topic is at the top on the list of priorities of almost every US official visits to Serbia.

During the riot, 52 police officers were injured and 78 citizens arrested.

Beginning of the investigation after the police report

In July 2014, the Minister of Internal Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic formed a Work group with a task to determine all circumstances related to the burning of the embassies. Based on the report of the Work group of the Ministry, the Prosecution started the investigation in mid-October 2014.

As the Prosecution stated at the time, the investigation was launched against the unnamed officials for crime against general security and abuse of office.

Report on which the investigation was based is classified as “official secret” but Serbian media reported that the suspects were retired Police General Stevan Bijelic and the Chief of Belgrade Police Mladen Kuribak, who was in charge of Gendarmerie at the time. According to the media, investigation was also dealing with responsibility of the Head of the Police Administration Slobodan Vukolic and the police high ranking officers Bojan Markovic and Zoran Raskovic.

According to the media, in the criminal charges against them it was stated that “with action and inaction, they did not execute the given tasks for ensuring the rally, which were ordered through confidential dispatch”.

Mina Milanovic

 

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