17 years have passed since the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic.
Djindjic was the first Serbian Prime Minister after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in 2000. On March 12, 2003, he was assassinated outside the seat of the Serbian government.
After the assassination, the Serbian government identified the organizers and perpetrators of the assassination as the so-called Zemun Clan, led by the former commander of the dissolved Special Operations Unit (JSO) Milorad Ulemek known as Legija, as well as other clan members, Dusan Spasojevic and Mile Lukovic.
In one of his last interviews before the murder and after the previous failed attempt to assassinate him on February 24, 2003, on the motorway stretch in front of the Belgrade Arena, Djindjic denied allegations that an agreement had been reached with the so-called Red Berets regiment of the JSO on October 5, 2000, to help overthrow Slobodan Milosevic in exchange for “some of JSO members allowed to be above the law”.
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A few hours after Djindjic’s assassination, a state of emergency was declared in the country, which lasted until April 22, when it was abolished at the proposal of the government.
Djindjic was buried on March 15 in the Novi Beograd cemetery, in front of over 70 state delegations. Hundreds of thousands of citizens participated in the funeral procession through the streets of Belgrade.
The Prime Minister’s murder, the former JSO deputy commander Zvezdan Jovanovic, his aides and many other members of the unit, as well as most members of the Zemun Clan and other criminal groups in the country were later arrested during the Sablja police action.
In August 2003, 44 people were charged with involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic and the first on the list of defendants, Milorad Ulemek Legija, surrendered to the Serbian authorities on May 2, 2004.
The trial against those accused of the murder of Prime Minister Djindjic began on 22 December 2003, at the Belgrade District Court. On May 23 2007, the defendants were sentenced to a total of 378 years in prison.
The former commander of the Red Berets, Milorad Ulemek was sentenced to 40 years in prison for organising the murder of the Prime Minister. Zvezdan Jovanovic, Ulemek’s former aide, also received the same sentence. These sentences were also confirmed by the Supreme Court of Serbia on December 28, 2008.
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