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Montenegro Coup Plot Trial Delayed


The trial of 14 suspects charged with plotting to overthrow Montenegro's government and keep the Balkan country out of NATO has been postponed on its first day over a defense motion to replace the prosecutor.

Judge Suzana Mugosa delayed the hearing on July 19 until the top state prosecutor rules on the defense request.

State authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during October 2016 parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russia leadership to halt Montenegro's bid to join NATO.

The defendants include lawmakers Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic of the opposition Democratic Front, nine Serbian citizens, one other Montenegrin, and two Russians who are being tried in absentia.

The high-profile trial was being broadcast live on state TV.

Mandic has denied any wrongdoing and said the affair was staged to discredit his pro-Russian party.

Montenegro says that “Russian state bodies” were involved in the alleged plot, but Russia denies the claim.

Montenegro became NATO's 29th member on June 5, marking a historic turn toward the transatlantic alliance amid protests from traditional partner Russia and the members of the opposition.

Russia has criticized Adriatic coastal country's accession to NATO, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying Moscow reserves the right to take "retaliatory measures" in response to what it called "anti-Russian hysteria."

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