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Serbian Media Silent on Mladic Trial, Nabucco-lite Proposed

Plus, anti-homophobia demonstrators are attacked in Tbilisi and a Serbian base on the Kosovo border comes under fire. by S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 18 May 2012

1. On Serbian TV, mum's the word on Mladic war crimes trial


Ratko Mladic
Television news outlets worldwide have given top billing to the 16 May opening of the trial against former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Except in Serbia, that is.


Radio Free Europe notes that Serbian television stations broadcast only the headline, but did not cover any part of the first day of court proceedings against Mladic, who stands accused of 11 counts of genocide and war crimes during the 1992-1995 Bosnia conflict.


RFE correspondent Branka Trivic said Serbian media frequently ignore The Hague today.


"The impression is that once they delivered that last guy indicted for war crimes, they just closed that chapter, and there is no discussion whatsoever about, for instance, who were those responsible for hiding Mladic so long?" Trivic told RFE writer Charles Recknagel.


Captured in northern Serbia a year ago, Mladic had been on the run since being indicted in 1995. Belgrade has not followed through on a promise to hunt down those who helped him hide, RFE reports.


Alphons Orie, the presiding judge in the Mladic trial, adjourned proceedings 17 May due to mistakes made by prosecutors in presenting evidence to the defense lawyers. He plans to resume the trial "as soon as possible."


2. In bid for survival, consortium proposes smaller Nabucco pipeline


With concerns mounting about supplies for the Nabucco pipeline envisioned to pump Caspian gas to Europe, the money behind the project has presented a scaled-back version to the consortium developing Azerbaijan's massive Shah Deniz II gas field, the Sofia News Agency reports.


At 1,300 kilometers, the so-called Nabucco West is roughly half the length of its forbearer, with a fraction of the capacity. Nabucco was originally envisioned to pump 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Georgia to Austria. Its price tag was variously estimated at 8 to 14 billion euros ($10 billion to $18 billion). Nabucco West would run from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Austria. The Nabucco consortium has not released a cost estimate for the scaled-down version.


The European Union has backed Nabucco in its push to reduce dependence on Russian gas imports. The project has progressed glacially since its 2002 inception, and Nabucco West is a response to concerns that there might not be enough available gas supply in the Caspian region to justify the original construction cost.


The original route for Nabucco stretched from the Georgia-Turkey border.


To date, Nabucco hasn't inked a single supply deal. It is competing with several other groups for access to Shah Deniz II in a bid that could prove decisive. The consortium developing the field is expected to narrow the field of bidders this summer, according to the Sofia News Agency.


Many of the Nabucco partners are wobbling. Last week German energy major RWE said it was re-evaluating its commitment to the project. In April, Hungary's MOL said it had serious doubts about Nabucco's future and that it would sell its stake if necessary.


3. Georgian religious group attacks gay rights event


A Tbilisi event to mark the International Day Against Homophobia was marred by homophobia. A Georgian Orthodox anti-homosexual group attacked gay activists participating in the 17 May demonstration, Radio Free Europe reports.


Police intervened in the clashes. No one was seriously injured.


City authorities had approved the event, organized by the Identity organization and gay rights activists, RFE reports.


4. Belgrade says border police took fire from Kosovo 'terrorists'


Serbian authorities say Kosovo Albanian terrorists attacked police on the Kosovo-Serbia border 17 May, Balkan Insight reports. Investigator Nada Colic told Balkan Insight that police officers at a base within the Bujanovac station came under machine gun and rifle fire in an "attempt to liquidate the police patrol."


While it's unclear whether any of the four police officers there were hurt, none was killed. They reportedly hid behind a woodpile.


"This shows that preserving peace in this part of the territory is just empty talk," Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told Balkan Insight, adding that he expects the international community to react.


The Kosovo-Serbia border has been extraordinarily tense since last summer, when a lengthy dispute erupted after Pristina sent forces there to enforce an effective embargo of Serbian goods. NATO peacekeeping troops subsequently took control of border security.


5. Kazakh police officer convicted in riot trial


A Kazakh police officer was sentenced 17 May to five years in jail for his role in the death of a man being held after December’s deadly riots in Zhanaozen, according to Reuters. Zhenisbek Temirov was found guilty of not providing medical care quickly enough to 50-year-old Bazarbai Kenzhebaev, who was arrested during the oil strike and died from injuries he received while in police custody. Temirov was also ordered to pay 1 million tenge ($6,750) in damages to Kenzhebaev’s family, Reuters reports.


On 16 December President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared a state of emergency after oil workers on strike clashed with police in the run up to the country’s 20th independence day celebrations. Various media reports put the number of deaths between 14 and 16 after police opened fired on the protesters.


In one of the few instances of unrest in Kazakhstan’s recent history, authorities were quick to blame ringleaders for the protests and resulting deaths. Thirty-seven people are on trial for inciting the riots. Human rights groups have called for the suspension of the trial. Authorities, however, have acknowledged that there might have been some police wrongdoing; in a separate trial, five police officers are charged with abusing their authority during the riots. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Joshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant.
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