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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 15:29 GMT
Serbian murder suspects in dock
Ivan Stambolic
Stambolic was a former Milosevic ally
The trial has begun in Belgrade of eight people accused of killing Serbia's ex-leader on the orders of his successor, Slobodan Milosevic.

Former President Ivan Stambolic was snatched in 2000 while out jogging, executed and buried in woodlands.

Mr Milosevic - already on trial for war crimes in The Hague - was not in court but his police chief Rade Markovic is among the defendants.

They are also accused of trying to kill another politician, Vuk Draskovic.

Mr Draskovic has survived two attempts on his life.

Monday's hearing was adjourned shortly after it began because a defence lawyer called for the judge's dismissal.

The trial is expected to resume on 25 February.

High-profile trials

The first attack on Mr Draskovic involved a deliberate road accident in which four of his associates died; the second was a shooting in which Mr Draskovic was injured.

Slobodan Milosevic - former president (on trial in The Hague)
Milorad Lukovic - former elite police chief (on the run)
Radomir Markovic - former secret police chief
Milorad Bracanovic - Markovic's deputy
Nebojsa Pavkovic - former armed forces chief
Mr Milosevic and a 10th man, former elite police chief Milorad Lukovic - known as Legija - have been formally named as suspects but are not in court.

Mr Milosevic is on trial in The Hague on war crimes charges; Mr Lukovic has not been caught.

This is the second high-profile trial to start in Belgrade: more than a dozen suspects are already on trial over the killing of Serbia's reformist Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic last year.

The suspects in the Stambolic trial were arrested in the clampdown which followed the murder of Mr Djindjic.

There are strong links between the cases. Mr Lukovic is an alleged key figure in both murders, and a total of seven people are suspects in both cases.

Old allies

Mr Stambolic, who was Serbian president from 1986-87, was originally an ally and patron of Mr Milosevic. But Mr Milosevic finally broke free of his more moderate mentor and helped oust him from office.

At the time of his disappearance there was speculation that he might have been planning a political comeback.

His son, Zeljko Stambolic, told media outside the court he blamed Mr Milosevic for his father's death.

"I expect those who where involved in this crime to be properly punished. The man who ordered this, Milosevic, and the organiser [Legija] are missing," he said.

Other suspects on trial include a deputy secret police chief, Milorad Bracanovic, and the one-time chief of staff of Serbia's armed forces, General Nebojsa Pavkovic.

The court hopes to hear the case against Mr Milosevic once his lengthy trial in The Hague is over.

Analysis: Stambolic murder trial
23 Feb 04  |  Europe
Milosevic denies rival's murder
24 Aug 03  |  Europe
Milosevic rival finally buried
08 Apr 03  |  Europe
Milosevic rival's remains found
28 Mar 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Serbia and Montenegro
20 Feb 04  |  Country profiles

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