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Serbian Premier Murder Convict Alleges High-Level Conspirators

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated in 2003

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated in 2003

BELGRADE -- The revelation that a Serb convicted of plotting the 2003 assassination of pro-Western Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has named several high-ranking politicians as having knowledge of plans for the killing has caused a media storm, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

Milos Simovic told prosecutors one year ago in a signed affidavit -- which was only recently released to the Serbian media -- that several high-ranking nationalist figures, including then Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, knew about the preparations for the assassination.

Simovic, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in absentia for his role in the killing but is now being retried after his arrest in Croatia last year, said in the affidavit that a person called "Coki" ordered the killing, which was carried out by an ultranationalist special police unit and the organized crime group Zemun, to which Simovic belonged.

Simovic has offered to cooperate in solving the murder in exchange for a reduction in his 30-year sentence.

Dejan Milenkovic -- a member of the Zemun gang who is also serving a 30-year prison term for Djindjic's murder along with the special police unit head and several of its members -- gave a similar account of the assassination to prosecutors several years ago.

Belgrade media has identified "Coki" as Djindjic's deputy, Nebojsa Covic. But Covic has dismissed the charges, saying that "the worst thing would be to reply to senseless stories and insinuations."

Djindjic and Kostunica led the democratic revolution that toppled nationalist Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in late 2000, but later had a falling out.

Djindjic worked to mend ties with the West and Balkan neighbors after a decade of wars involving Serbs while Kostunica moved to the right and advocated nationalist policies.

Among others, Simovic also named former heads of the military and civilian counterintelligence service -- Aco Tomic, and Rade Bulatovic, respectively -- and ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, who is being tried for war crimes at the UN tribunal in The Hague, as those who knew about plans for Djindjic's assassination.

Belgrade lawyer Srdja Popovic, who represents the Djindjic family, told RFE/RL that Simovic's claims should be thoroughly investigated.

"He is an insider and knows key facts," he said. "If someone offers such testimony -- that he knows the names of those responsible -- I think that should provoke some interest from the prosecutors."