General Momcilo Perisic, acquitted of war crimes by the Hague Tribunal last week, could now be prosecuted for spying for the United States after he returned to Serbia.Perisic’s trial for passing state secrets to US will be scheduled as soon as the Hague Tribunal officially confirms he was acquitted of war crimes last Thursday, a Belgrade court spokesperson told BIRN.
The army prosecutor filed charges against Perisic in 2002, while he was serving as president of the parliamentary committee for security, accusing him of handing over secret data to a US diplomat at a hotel in central Serbia.
According to media reports, Perisic met US diplomat John David Neighbor and gave him military documents about the Yugoslav Army’s participation in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.
Both were arrested, but Neighbor was quickly released because he had diplomatic immunity, and the US immediately denied that any secret data had been handed over.
The case was overseen by the Belgrade military until 2005 when it was transferred to a regular court in the Serbian capital, but proceedings were then suspended when Perisic was sent to The Hague for trial.
“The official confirmation that he has been acquitted by the Hague Tribunal needs to be sent to us, so we can continue the case here,” Belgrade court spokesperson Ivana Ramic told BIRN.
“As soon as we got confirmation, we will schedule the trial session,” Ramic added.
But the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, said that no such documents would be provided.
“Once a judgement has been issued and made public, it is considered rendered by the Tribunal and individual institutions/organisations would not be contacted separately by the ICTY to confirm a judgment,” the ICTY’s press office told BIRN in an email.
Perisic pleaded not guilty to the espionage charges.
Speaking about the accusations in his only media interview after his Hague acquittal, he said that because he managed to win a case at the ICTY, he could win in a Serbian court as well.
The ICTY’s appeals chamber ruled on February 28 that Perisic was not responsible for the wartime atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serb Army in Sarajevo and Srebrenica because it was not under the command of the Yugoslav Army.
It also found him not guilty of failing to punish his subordinates who participated in the shelling of the Croatian capital Zagreb.
He was originally convicted in 2011 of “aiding and abetting a military campaign of artillery and mortar shelling and sniping on civilian areas of Sarajevo and on its civilian population, killing and wounding thousands of civilians”.
He also “failed to take necessary and reasonable steps to punish his subordinates for the shelling of civilian areas in the city of Zagreb on May 2 and 3, 1995, which resulted in the death and wounding of civilians”, the original verdict said.
He was further held responsible for aiding and abetting crimes against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in 1995, when more than 7,000 people were killed.