Tensions between Croatia and Serbia: Colovic sentenced for espionage

Cedo Colovic, a former war veteran who reportedly has both the Croatian and Serbian citizenship, admitted being involved in espionage and was sentenced to three years in prison.

The Serbian High Court on Tuesday accepted a plea agreement between Colovic, who admitted to espionage, and the country’s Prosecution Office, sentencing him to three years’ imprisonment.

“The judge for preliminary proceedings… declared the defendant guilty of the criminal offence of espionage,” the High Court said in a statement.

Fifty-seven-year-old Colovic was arrested in Serbia on Friday on suspicion of spying for Croatia.

The court statement did not give any details about his alleged activities.

But Serbian newspaper Blic, quoting anonymous sources, claimed that the Zagreb authorities had threatened to prosecute Colovic for war crimes allegedly committed in Croatia during the 1990s war and forced him to work for the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency.

According to the same sources, he collected information and documentation and even recruited former officers of the Yugoslav People’s Army as witnesses for the prosecution in Croatia.

Colovic’s sister Anka Borkovic has denied that her brother was a spy.

She told BIRN that Colovic had once held some rank in a breakaway wartime rebel Serb statelet in Croatia called the Republic of Serbian Krajina, although she said was “not sure which one exactly”.

Borkovic said he was wounded in the shoulder in 1993 and transferred to hospital in Belgrade for treatment then was granted disability status and given a state pension.

She added that in 1999, he moved back to their native village of Tepljuh, near the town of Drnis in southern Croatia, to take care of their parents who lived there.

After both parents died, he went back to Belgrade in 2004 but returned every year for around a month to take care of the house and their vineyard.

“He was planning to go there on Friday [when he was arrested] … I am in shock, I don’t know what to think anymore,” Borkovic said.

Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic denied on Saturday that Colovic was spying for Zagreb, calling the whole issue “a provocation” by Belgrade.

Friday’s arrest of Colovic has exacerbated tensions between Serbia and Croatia, which have deteriorated sharply in recent months amid exchanges of inflammatory diplomatic protest notes and harsh statements from politicians on both sides.

According to the High Court decision, Colovic will stay in custody until he is transferred to prison to serve his sentence.

(Balkan Insight, 06.09.2016)

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