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Bosnian Party Leader Cleared Of Charges He Obstructed Drug Case

Bosnian lawmaker Fahrudin Radoncic appears at the trial of drug boss Naser Kelmendi in Pristina.

A Bosnian tycoon who leads a party in the ruling coalition has been cleared of charges he organized a criminal group and interfered in a high-profile court case in Kosovo against Balkan drug boss Naser Kelmendi.

Fahrudin Radoncic, a former owner of Bosnia's largest newspaper, Dnevni Avaz, and leader of the Union for a Better Future (SBB) party, had said the case brought against him in 2016 was "politically fabricated."

Radoncic was accused of organizing and leading a four-member group, including two other SBB officials, that intimidated witnesses in the Kelmendi case, among other alleged offenses.

All four were cleared on May 16 of charges of interfering in the drug trial of Kelmendi, a Kosovo-born ethnic Albanian with Bosnian citizenship. A Kosovo court in February jailed Kelmendi for six years for trafficking drugs.

Hasija Masovic, the chairman of the Sarajevo court council that issued the ruling on May 16, said the prosecution's case was based on "assumptions, without clear evidence." She added that the prosecutors had failed even to clearly state what the actual offenses were.

Radoncic, whose party will compete with the largest Bosniak party, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), for Muslim Bosniak votes in October general elections, said that the defendants were "victims" of a "fabricated indictment."

"We have stated from the beginning that we were innocent," Radoncic told reporters in Sarajevo. "I am so glad that a fair court process has shown there was not a single [piece of] evidence or legal reason for us to be tried, except for the wish to politically eliminate us."

Prosecutors have not said whether they will appeal the verdict.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters