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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 14:20 GMT
Djindjic trial witness murdered
Zoran Djindjic
Zoran Djindjic was shot dead in Belgrade last year
A key eyewitness to the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has been killed before he could testify, a judge has announced.

Kujo Krijestorac was shot repeatedly by gunmen using a silencer as he sat in his car on 1 March.

It was not immediately clear whether the killing was related to the trial.

Thirteen people are currently on trial in a special high-security court in Belgrade, charged with the prime minister's murder.

Perhaps they wanted to threaten the other witnesses
Rajko Danilovic
Lawyer for the Djindic family
A lawyer for Mr Djindjic's family, Rajko Danilovic, told AP news agency that Mr Krijestorac had received a number of death threats before being gunned down.

"The defence has obtained nothing because his deposition will be read before the tribunal," he said.

"Perhaps they wanted to threaten the other witnesses."

Court officials confirmed that Mr Krijestorac's statements to prosecutors would now be presented as evidence.

Mr Krijestorac, a businessman, was near the scene when the prime minister was shot by a sniper last March, and saw suspects fleeing the scene.

He was due to appear in court soon, but his body was found riddled with bullets near his home in a Belgrade suburb.

Court officials did not explain the delay in announcing his murder, which happened more than a week ago.

At large

The assassination of Serbia's reformist prime minister has been widely attributed to his decision to extradite former leader Slobodan Milosevic to the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, and his efforts to crack down on organised crime.

His alleged killer, Zvezdan Jovanovic - a former assistant commander of the elite special police unit, the Red Berets - is on trial.

But the man believed to have masterminded the murder, former Red Berets commander Milorad Lukovic, remains at large.


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