The 12 men accused of killing Serbia’s first reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic have been convicted by a special court in Belgrade. The two main men involved have both been handed the maximum 40 year prison sentence. Both are former members of the paramilitary police unit JSO. Zvezdan Jovanovic was the gunman who shot Djindjic – he denied the charges despite a written confession of his guilt.
The other, Milorad Ulemek, is the former commander of the now disbanded JSO. Ten other paramilitary and underground figures have also been convicted on charges connected with the murder. They are all believed to be members of a Serbian mafia gang.
Djindjic was shot outside a government building by Jovanovic. He fired two bullets from an office overlooking a courtyard 100 metres away. The attack happened on March 12, 2003, shortly after Djindjic delivered a speech to government members. Relatives of those convicted were booed as they left court, as demonstrations took place around Belgrade.
Protesters from Djindjic’s Democratic Party took to the streets with a banner that read “40 years is not enough”. One activist said: “We think 40 years is not enough for the assassination of the first democratic Prime Minister of our country. Democratic Youth will continue with this action.”
Reaction to the verdict could set off ripples in the fragile democracy, ruled by the fledgling government of current Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.