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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 09:40 GMT
Belgrade sceptics doubt official story

By Matthew Price
BBC, Belgrade

The official version of the death of Serbian PM Zoran Djindjic says he was killed by Serb nationalists and members of the country's mafia.

But as his alleged killers go on trial in Belgrade, few here believe the trial into his murder will uncover the full truth of who was behind his assassination.

Legija (l) inspects troops
Former Red Berets commander Legija is alleged mastermind
There are many who feel the plot goes far deeper.

Mr Djindjic was assassinated in the heart of Belgrade, just outside government offices. In one of the nearby buildings, a sniper levelled his rifle and fired two shots into the prime minister. He was swiftly taken to hospital, but he was dead by the time he arrived.

The prosecution says the suspects now appearing in court include nationalists opposed to Mr Djindjic's co-operation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and alleged members of organised crime groups and the police who worked for them.

Mr Djindjic, encouraged by the international community, was about to crack down on organised crime. That, it's said, is why he was killed - so that these groups could overthrow the government and take power.

I don't think anyone in Serbia believes that the official story is the full story
Ljiljana Smajlovic
Nin journalist
But many people question this version of events, says journalist Ljiljana Smajlovic who writes for the respected weekly, Nin.

"I don't think anyone in Serbia believes that the official story is the full story," she says.

"The government gagged the press during the state of emergency (following the murder) and it was only after the state of emergency was lifted that a lot of things came to light, especially the members of government who visited the mafia people in jail during the Djindjic years.

"They were the government people who had closer contacts with the mafia - and these are people from Zoran Djindjic's vicinity."

Some members of his government were very, very deeply involved in the corruption
Marko Nicovic
Anti-corruption detective
Marko Nicovic, an internationally-renowned detective with more than 30 years of experience fighting corruption in the region, believes Mr Djindjic's association with one of the two big Belgrade mafia clans led to his death.

He claims that Mr Djindjic had tried to work with some sections of the mafia, while fighting against others.

"Some members of his government were very, very deeply involved in the corruption," says Mr Nicovic.

Wider question

He believes these factors lay directly behind Mr Djindjic's "elimination", as people acted to protect their own interests.

Mr Djindjic's death shocked Serbia, but it also exposed how deeply organised crime continued to penetrate the political establishment in Serbia today - and not just Serbia.

"This original problem is not only Serbia-Montenegro; the whole western Balkans could become a black hole in the middle of Europe unless they fight against organised crime," says the ambassador here for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Maurizio Massari.

The BBC's Matthew Price
"There are certainly enough conspiracy theories surrounding the murder"

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