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Milosevic-Era Security Official Released

July 24, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) _ A ranking security official from Slobodan Milosevic’s regime suspected of involvement in the murders of the ex-president’s opponents has been released from prison, his lawyer said Thursday.

Milorad Bracanovic, a former deputy chief of Milosevic’s secret service and a member of a notorious paramilitary group, was jailed in a police sweep that followed the March 12 assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

At the time, Bracanovic was suspected of having ``taken part in illegal paramilitary actions ordered by top police and state officials″ from the mid-1990s until his dismissal in 2001.

Bracanovic’s attorney, Veljko Delibasic, confirmed his client’s release but said he could not comment on details of the investigation.

A Belgrade newspaper, Glas Javnosti, reported Thursday that Bracanovic was accused of failing to alert authorities to a plot to abduct and kill Ivan Stambolic, a former Serbian president and political rival of Milosevic, although he knew of the plot.

It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would take further action against Bracanovic, who was jailed for four months.

``Even if they do officially bring charges against my client, I firmly believe he will be proven innocent,″ Delibasic told The Associated Press.

In the sweep that followed Djindjic’s slaying, police rounded up thousands of suspects, including Milosevic-era officials and paramilitaries, on charges they were involved in the assassination or in other crimes.

The police operation also uncovered Stambolic’s body in a lime pit on the slopes of a northern mountain. Milosevic’s rival was abducted while jogging in a Belgrade park less than two months before a pro-democracy movement toppled Milosevic in October 2000.

An underworld group with links to Milosevic’s Red Beret paramilitaries and other loyalists has been accused of masterminding Djindjic’s assassination.

Serbian authorities suspect that Milosevic and his wife, Mirjana Markovic, ordered Stambolic killed.

Milosevic is currently on trial before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of war crimes and genocide stemming from his role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

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