2 Serb ex-spy chiefs arrested over 1999 killing
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Two former senior Serbian secret service officials were arrested on Tuesday over the killing of a prominent independent Serb journalist and publisher nearly 15 years ago during the hardline rule of former President Slobodan Milosevic.
Former Belgrade spy agency head Milan Radonjic is accused of planning the killing of journalist Slavko Curuvija outside his apartment in the capital in April 1999, and former operations chief Ratko Romic of taking part in the assassination. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said formal charges will be filed against them by March.
The killing took place during a NATO air war against Serbia over the independence-seeking province of Kosovo.
Curuvija, who owned two popular newspapers, was a fierce critic of Milosevic’s autocratic rule and crackdown on independent media. Days before the journalist was gunned down in a hail of handgun bullets, he was singled out by Milosevic’s powerful wife, Mirjana Markovic, as a supporter of the NATO bombing. His family and friends have accused Markovic of ordering the attack.
Serbia’s public prosecutor, Miljko Radisavljevic, said Tuesday the initial investigation shows that the former chief of Milosevic’s secret service, Rade Markovic, ordered the killing, while Romic and another agency operative, Miroslav Kurak, were the assassins.
Officials said further investigation could show that Mirjana Markovic initially ordered the secret service to carry out the attack.
Rade Markovic, not related to Mirjana Markovic, is serving a 40-year prison sentence for the killings and attempted murders of other Milosevic’s political opponents, while Kurak is on the run.
Failure to solve the Curuvija case has burdened all subsequent Serbian governments since Milosevic’s ouster from power in a popular pro-democracy revolt in 2000. The current Serbian government is made up of former Milosevic’s allies who claim they have turned reformist.
Vucic, who was Serbia’s information minister when Curuvija was killed, hailed the arrests of Radonjic and Romic as a major accomplishment of the new Serbian government.
Milosevic died in his prison cell at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, in 2006. Mirjana Markovic fled to Russia after his ouster, and she was given political asylum there.