Coup trial of 2 Russians, 12 others in Montenegro delayed
By PREDRAG MILIC
Jul. 20, 2017
PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — The trial in Montenegro of two Russians and 12 other people charged with plotting an election day coup to scuttle the country's NATO bid was delayed Thursday until September.
Judge Suzana Mugosa postponed the proceedings after defense lawyers filed several motions to the court, including a repeat demand that the special prosecutor in the case be replaced.
A similar demand has already led to a one-day delay on Wednesday.
The 14 defendants — among them the Russians and two top opposition leaders — are charged with "creating a criminal organization" with an aim to undermine the constitutional order of Montenegro.
The Russians — said by the prosecutor to be Kremlin military secret service operatives — are additionally charged with terrorism. They remain at large and are being tried in absentia.
The indictment alleges they planned to take over parliament on Oct. 16, election day, assassinate then-prime minister Milo Djukanovic and install a pro-Russian, anti-NATO leadership with the aim of stopping the country from joining the Western military alliance.
Russia has denied involvement in the alleged plot. Montenegro joined NATO in June despite strong opposition from Moscow, which considers the country its historic ally.
Montenegrin opposition leaders charged in the coup plot have dismissed the accusations as politically staged.
Defense lawyers on Thursday said the prosecutor's publishing of WhatsApp chats between lawyers has undermined the proceedings. A lawyer also asked for more time to prepare for the trial, prompting the judge to move the hearing to September.
The trial is being broadcast live on Montenegrin state TV.