Montenegro court finds guilty all 13 defendants charged for 2016 coup plot

Montenegro court finds guilty all 13 defendants charged for 2016 coup plot

Montenegro court finds guilty all 13 defendants charged for 2016 coup plot Izvor: Pixabay (ilustracija)

A court in Montenegro's capital Podgorica found guilty all 13 defendants charged with taking part in a 2016 coup plot planned to take place on parliamentary election day in October 2016. All but one defendant was handed a jail sentence.

According to the indictment, a group of Russian and Serbian nationals, aided by leaders of Montenegro's pro-Russian opposition parties, had made plans to storm the national parliament, and capture and murder the country's then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic - today serving as Montenegro's President. The plan was meant to instigate a coup d'etat in order to prevent the country from joining NATO.

"Every member of the criminal organisation had a defined task and a role to play which was planned well in advance, with the group prepared to commit acts of violence and intimidation - and with everybody involved intent on carrying out the plan while being fully aware of the illegal nature of it," judge Suzana Mugosa said on Thursday.

The group included two Russians, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, believed to be agents working for Russia's military intelligence agency GRU, who were sentenced in absentia to 15 years and 12 years in prison respectively.

Leaders of the pro-Russian Democratic Front (DF) opposition party, Andrija Mandic, and Milan Knezevic, were sentenced to five years in prison each.

A former senior official of Serbian police, Bratislav Dikic, was sentenced to eight years in prison for aiding the attempted terrorist attack and creating a criminal organisation, while Predrag Bulatovic, a Montenegrin opposition politician, received seven years in prison on the same charges.

Other defendants received sentences from a year and a half up to seven years in prison, while Kristina Hristic, the only woman in the group, charged with a minor role in the coup attempt, received a suspended sentence.

A key defandant, Ananije Nikic, has been put on a separate trial in absentia. Nikic had fled to Russia in 2016 and was given asylum there in late 2017.

Officially billed as a translator working for the Democratic Front party, Montenegro prosecutors claim Nikic was actually a foreign agent working for Russia's FSB intelligence service, with a central role in recruiting other plot members.

In the October 2016 election, the pro-Western centre-left DPS party led by Djukanovic won the majority of the vote in the tiny 600,000-strong Adriatic nation, which later joined NATO in June 2017.

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