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Court Overturns Convictions in Draskovic Murder Plot, Prominent Romani Activist Dies

Plus, a Macedonian journalist goes on trial for telling too much and Serbia's lagging economy could get a shot of gold fever.

by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane 12 August 2013

1. Serbian court orders retrial in Draskovic assassination plot 


A Serbian appeals court has ordered a retrial for three former high-ranking security officers convicted of the attempted assassination of a leading opponent of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. 


The three were convicted in June 2012, Balkan Insight reports. Milos Radonjic, the former head of the Belgrade office of the Serbian State Security service, was sentenced to eight years in prison, and two former unit chiefs in the service, Stevan Basta and Ratko Romic, were sentenced to seven years. 


They were found guilty of taking part in an operation to kill Vuk Draskovic in the Montenegrin town of Budva in June 2000.


Draskovic, founder of the monarchist Serbian Renewal Movement, was one of Milosevic's most colorful and vocal opponents during the 1990s and a leading critic of Serbia's military operations in Bosnia, although he also formed a paramilitary unit that took part in fighting against Croatian forces in 1991.


Under Milosevic, he briefly served as a deputy prime minister in 1999 as the Kosovo crisis loomed, and was the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro for three years after Milosevic's overthrow. 


He was injured in the Budva attack, one of several attempted assassinations he survived. 


The appeals court said 8 August that the verdict against the three men was “unclear and incomprehensible,” according to Balkan Insight. Serbian news agency B 92 says the court spoke of “certain contradictions between the real circumstances and their presentation in the [original] ruling.”


Draskovic said the retrial order showed that state organs were still protecting former security officers. He said the court was trying to protect those who murdered another Milosevic opponent, newspaper publisher Slavko Curuvija, in 1999. Curuvija's killers remain unidentified, Balkan Insight writes.  


2. Colleagues mourn death of leading Romani advocate Nicolae Gheorghe


gheorghe 100Nicolae Gheorghe
Romanian sociologist and prominent Romani rights activist Nicolae Gheorghe died 8 August, aged 66, according to the Romanian daily Adevarul. Born into a humble family of assimilated Roma, Gheorghe worked as a researcher at the Institute of Sociology in Bucharest and was part of a national commission tasked with drafting a program for the integration of marginalized populations in the 1970s.


Gheorghe drew the ire of Communist authorities after criticizing the official Romani integration program, wrote Vasile Ionescu, the president of the Media Institute for Diversity and a close friend of Gheorghe, in a blog post for Adevarul. 


Steve Sampson, an anthropologist at Lund University who knew Gheorghe for four decades, said in a blog post that his colleague had run into trouble with the Romanian Securitate secret police owing to his contacts with foreign academics. Sampson writes that Gheorghe's approach to integration was “sociologically realistic” and emphasized the work Roma have to do themselves to improve their lives, a stance that occasionally put him at odds with Romani groups.


The organization Gheorghe founded in 1993, Romani Criss, became one of the leading Romani rights groups in Romania as well as internationally. He successfully urged the official adoption of the term “Roma” instead of the government-proposed tsigan (Gypsy), according to the European Roma Cultural Foundation's Romani Elders project.  


Adevarul writes that Gheorghe's work brought him human rights awards from the French state in 1992 and from the European Union in 1997. In 1999, he became chief adviser to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on Roma and Sinti issues. “This is a terrible loss for both the Roma community and the OSCE family,” ODIHR director Janez Lenarcic said. 


3. Investors eager to exploit Serbian gold, copper deposits 


Serbia could be on the threshold of a mining boom, Reuters writes.  


One geologist commented on early results of new gold and copper exploration in the mining town of Bor as “once a decade” finds.


Natural Resources Minister Milan Bacevic said that less than 10 percent of the country's mining potential is being used, although the 300 companies currently active in the sector contribute significantly to the Serbian economy.


The RTB Bor mining and smelting complex in northeastern Serbia is leading a revival of the sector, UN Resident Representative in Serbia William Infante said at a celebration of the company's 110th birthday last week, B 92 reports.


During that time, RTB Bor produced 5 million tons of copper, 1,000 tons of silver, and 160 tons of gold.


According to InSerbia News, foreign investors see Serbia as a country with huge gold mining potential.  The site quotes Bacevic as saying there may be as much gold at deposits near Zagubica, eastern Serbia, as the Bor mines have produced in their entire history.

Open-cast mining near Bor. Photo by Kevin Wallis/Flickr


4. Macedonian journalist, six others on trial for helping murder suspects evade justice


In a case that has drawn the attention of media watchdogs, prominent Macedonian journalist Tomislav Kezarovski went on trial 9 August for revealing the identity of a protected witness, Balkan Insight reports.


kezarovski 100Tomislav Kezarovski
Kezarovski is on trial with seven others, including a judge and a public prosecutor, accused of trying to aid three people suspected of a 2005 murder in the village of Orese.


The journalist was arrested in May for an article he wrote in 2008 in which he revealed the identity of the  protected witness and suggested the defendants in the Orese murder were framed by police.


The defendants, Ordan and Ljupco Gjorgievski, charged as perpetrators, and Gjorge Petrovski, accused of ordering the murder, were released after protected witness Zlatko Arsovski admitted to giving false testimony against them, Balkan Insight writes.


The prosecution claims Kezarovski’s 2008 article enabled the suspects to identify Arsovski and pressure him into changing his testimony. In the charging document, prosecutor Lile Stefanova said the article showed Kezarovski was “aware that he is subject to criminal responsibility,” according to Balkan Insight.


The defense will argue that he acted in the public interest, and meant no harm.


5. Georgian parties to get more state funding


The Georgian parliament has passed an amendment that will increase public funding for political parties ahead of the 27 October presidential election, reports.


Lawmakers passed the amendment by a unanimous vote 7 August. Fourteen parties had already been allocated 6.1 million lari ($3.7 million) in state funds for this year, of which about two-thirds will be shared by the six parties in the Georgian Dream coalition and by the main opposition United National Movement (UNM). The amendment ensures that parliamentary parties and seven parties that failed to win legislative seats in last year's elections will receive an additional 150,000 lari ($90,000) each this year.


The ruling coalition originally supported the new funding rules, then backed away, relenting only after loud protests by non-parliamentary parties, writes.


Political funding has been a contentious issue for years in Georgia, Democracy & Freedom Watch wrote last week. During its decade in power, UNM, headed by President Mikheil Saakashvili, received most of the state money allocated to political parties. The party “used to manipulate how parties received funding,” the website writes, and put new financing restrictions in place in an apparent effort to forestall political newcomer Bidzina Ivanishvili from financing parties when he began to look like a serious political force.


The party funding amendment formed part of a legislative package aimed at opening up more funding sources for parties, reports. Debated last month, the other amendments include allowing corporate donations to parties and allocating up to 1 million lari to presidential candidates who receive at least 10 percent of the vote in order to pay off campaign expenses.

Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane are TOL editorial interns.
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