The Serbian government and the political party of detained Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, who is accused of war crimes, have launched a petition demanding his release.
The Belgrade authorities along with Ivanovic’s Serbia, Democracy and Justice party launched the joint petition on Wednesday, asking the authorities in Pristina to allow their the detained politician to be released ahead of his trial.
“Without any intention of interfering in court proceedings, because we want to prove the innocence of Oliver Ivanovic, the petition aims to attract the prosecution’s attention in order to [convince it to] allow Ivanovic the same rights as other suspects in criminal proceedings,” the petition says.
According to Ivanovic’s party, the petition can only be signed at its office in North Mitrovica.
Ivanovic was detained in January “as an alleged suspect in an ongoing war crimes investigation”, according to the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, and is also suspected of involvement in violence in 2000 in which ten Kosovo Albanians were killed and many more wounded and driven from their homes.
At the time, he was a leading “Bridge Watcher”, one of the hard-line Serbs who patrolled the main bridge in Mitrovica dividing the town into Serbian and Albanian sectors.
His arrest has caused discontent among Serbs in the town, who took to the streets in protest.
North Kosovo Serb political leaders also announced on Wednesday that they would no longer cooperate with EULEX police after the arrest the day before of a local Serb called Nebojsa Vujacic on suspicion of murder during the unrest in 2000.
The team tasked with establishing a community of Serb municipalities, the north Kosovo mayors, local government representatives and the head of the Mitrovica district issued a joint statement saying that Vujacic “was practically kidnapped when he was setting out for work”.
It said that the practice of remanding Serb suspects in custody for 30 days made it necessary to “cut off cooperation with EULEX police and declare them unwelcome in the territory of the municipalities of Kosovska Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan”.
BIRN has learned that the Vujacic case is connected to the earlier arrests of Ivanovic and retired Serb police colonel Dragoljub Delibasic.