The 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was killed on March 12, 2003, was marked in Belgrade on Sunday.
A few hours after the murder occurred, the government declared a state of emergency in Serbia, while the members of the Zemun criminal clan and part of the Special Operations Unit (JSO) of the Serbian Interior Ministry were immediately suspected as perpetrators.
During the state of emergency, which lasted until April 22, 2003, the police arrested more than 11,000 people, including politicians, high-ranking military officers as well as judicial officers under the auspices of an operation codenamed ‘Sablja’.
In August 2003, an indictment was issued against 44 people for participating in the organization of the murder and the trial began on December 22 of the same year before the District Court in Belgrade.
On May 23, 2007, the court found the defendants guilty, sentencing them to a total of 378 years in prison.
The former JSO commander Milorad Ulemek Legija and his deputy Zvezdan Jovanovic were sentenced to 40 years in prison as the immediate perpetrators of the murder.
Djindjic came to power on the wave of the opposition’s victory over the then ruler Slobodan Milosevic. He managed to join 18 parties in the bloc, which ran on a single list in the December 2000 parliamentary elections, after Milosevic lost the presidential vote a few months before.
However, he and his allies did not have enough time to dismantle the old regime’s structure, the state security agency and the police above all.
And, maybe equally important, the cracks in the ruling coalition appeared almost immediately after the victory.
Following years of isolation after being described as a pariah state, the world seemed to have embraced the new Serbia, particularly Djindjic as a man seen as a real democrat capable of getting the country out of the blurry times of autocracy, wars and economic failure.
His energy. determination and vision of a different, more just and more modern Serbia earned him respect from many. On the other hand, political haters and those who feared his reforms’ consequences might have had on them prevailed.
(Politika, N1, 12.03.2023)
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