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The murder of Slavko Curuvija: Where is the one who pulled the trigger?

It has been exactly 17 years since the murder of Slavko Curuvija, a journalist, editor-in-chief and owner of the Dnevni Telegraf and Evropljanin papers. Curuvija was killed in the entryway of the building where he lived, on Easter 1999 during the NATO bombing. The trial of the four members of the State Security Service who are accused for his murder began a little less than a year ago. The direct perpetrator is still at large, with a warrant having been issued for his arrest. Still, a question arises as to how intensive the search for him truly is.

The accused for the murder of Curuvija are the chiefs of the Serbian and Belgrade Security Service, Radomir Markovic and Milan Radonjic, and two operatives - Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak. Kurak is accused as the direct perpetrator. The investigation has not reached those who ordered the murder and the one accused as the perpetrator is at large.

Miroslav Kurak, a member of the reserves of the State Security, is accused as the direct perpetrator. He is at large, with the court having ordered his remanding in custody (for when he is arrested) and a warrant issued for his arrest.

Still, a question arises as to how intensive the search for him really is. Namely, at the time of launching the investigation, all the media published the images from the web-site “Wildtanzaniatrails” where safari tours in Tanzania are advertized. It was known at that time that he lived and worked in that African country.

It is not known at this time whether Serbia had sent this African country a request for information about him, or for his arrest and extradition. Meanwhile, the photos of Miroslav Kurak can no longer be found on the web pages about safari in Tanzania, nor is his name on the list of the national association of hunters in that country, where he was listed at the time when the indictment was raised.

Judging by the cases of some other fugitives, if there is no dedicated search for him, the “search” for Kurak could last for years without results.

Serbia has not signed any agreements on international legal assistance with Tanzania. All bilateral agreements date back to the period when Tanzania was governed by Great Britain. However, international conventions exist, on the basis of which this cooperation could be carried out.

Legija is the crown witness

The proceedings for Curuvija's murder were initiated after the interrogation of Milorad Ulemek Legija, the former commander of the Special Operations Unit (JSO), who has been sentenced to 40 years for the assassination of premier Zoran Djindjic.

"He decided to testify about this murder. I must stress that he testified unconditionally... He received no benefits for it and his testimony about this case was very extensive," prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic stated on the day of the arrest of the suspects in the Curuvija case.

Ulemek's testimony in the proceedings before the Special Court has not yet been announced, but he is expected to be among the last to testify. The prosecution has proposed 90 witnesses and, on average, two testify per day of trial.

The brothers Aleksandar and Milos Simovic, the convicted members of the Zemun crime clan, have also testified about the murder of Curuvija.

The media have reported that, for all these years, Miroslav Kurak had been in contact with the former operative of the Security Service, Dragan Filipovic Fica, who was in charge of special operations of the Service while Radomir Markovic was its chief. Filipovic has also not been in Serbia since the start of Operation Saber and the discovery of perpetrators of political assassinations. According to a report in the Blic daily, he returned to Serbia at the end of December, which was immediately linked with influencing the witnesses in the Curuvija case. Unlike Kurak, Serbia never started the search for him because he is not a suspect in any case.

Trial – Witnesses suffering from amnesia

According to the indictment, Slavko Curuvija was murdered because of „public appearances in the country and abroad, criticism of the bearers of political authority, possibility to influence public opinion and the activities of opposition forces, and with the purpose of keeping the existing authorities in power.“

The witnesses who have so far testified at the trial are mostly operatives of the state security service who either knew about or were engaged on the following of Slavko Curuvija. One fact that has been clear from the start is that the following of Slavko Ćuruvija was not a usual operation. Namely, the operatives had to report immediately after any change in Slavko Ćuruvija’s movement. The team that followed him were ordered to stand down directly before the killing.

It is worth noting that certain operatives were unable to remember anything in connection with the following and killing of Curuvija, justifying their „amnesia“ with the passage of time, although they admitted that it was not very common for a person under surveillance to be killed.

It is also particularly interesting that the mechanism, according to which the secret service operated in cases of political assassinations, was being disclosed once again before the court at this trial.

 

As a journalist and editor, Curuvija mostly dealt with important political issues. He fiercely criticized the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, supported the students' protest and wrote about the wars in the SFR Yugoslavia.

After leaving the Borba paper, where he was the editor-in-chief, he founded the Nedeljni Telegraf weekly in 1994. In early 1996, he founded the first private daily paper Dnevni Telegraf and, a little later, the Evropljanin magazine.

Together with several other media, the Dnevni Telegraf was banned by a special media decree in 1998, after which it was printed in Montenegro. Because of his work as a journalist, Curuvija was sentenced to five months in prison next year, but his lawyers managed to prevent the execution of the sentence.

On Easter 1999, Curuvija was murdered by two masked attackers in front of his home in Belgrade. The suspects in his murder were arrested almost 15 years later.

Nowadays, a street in Belgrade bears the name of Slavko Curuvija and a memorial plaque marks the place where he was murdered. Like every year, representatives of journalists' associations, friends and colleagues laid wreaths and lit candles at the place of his murder.