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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Djindjic suspect in court hearing
Milorad Lukovic (front right) at court
Lukovic (front right) is accused of masterminding the attack
The alleged mastermind behind the assassination of former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has been given a month to prepare his defence.

Milorad Lukovic, also known as Legija, appeared in court for the first time on Monday. He gave himself up last week after being on the run for a year.

Mr Lukovic's lawyer has promised his client will tell everything he knows about the 12 March 2003 shooting.

Correspondents say the case has already captivated the country.

In the seven days since Mr Lukovic handed himself in he has dominated the headlines, and there is intense speculation he will accuse prominent figures of being part of the plot.

Composed

The BBC's Matt Prodger in Belgrade says there also suspicions about why Mr Lukovic chose to give himself up and whether he has he struck a deal with the authorities - and if so can what he says be trusted?

Other theories suggest he is simply a scapegoat for those who really killed Mr Djindjic.

He will plead with the truth - he will tell everything he knows
Slobodan Milivojevic,
Mr Lukovic's lawyer
Monday's court appearance was the first chance for many people to see Mr Lukovic since he disappeared after Mr Djindjic's death.

Outside the court, members of the public clamoured to get in. Among them, were supporters of the former prime minister, dressed in t-shirts bearing his photograph.

The building was guarded by a special police force which replaced that which Mr Lukovic headed until a few years ago.

Wearing a grey suit, Mr Lukovic, 36, looked impassive and composed, speaking only briefly to confirm his identity and his current status as "pensioner".

Mr Lukovic's lawyer Slobodan Milivojevic told reporters that his client would not defend himself by remaining silent.

"He will plead with the truth - he will tell everything he knows," said .

The court set his next court appearance for 10 June.

The Djindjic assassination trial started in December with Mr Lukovic being tried in his absence. Five out of 13 suspects have been in the dock including the alleged gunman, Zvezdan Jovanovic.

Mr Lukovic is not only accused of plotting Mr Djindjic's assassination.

Charges

He is also accused of assassinating the former Yugoslav president, Ivan Stambolic, in 2000 and of attempting to kill Vuk Draskovic, now the foreign minister of Serbia Montenegro, in 1999.

Mr Lukovic has been a mercenary, paramilitary, gangster and state security enforcer.

His police unit, known as the Red Berets, was instrumental in the downfall of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, in as much as it refused to attack anti-Milosevic protestors.

But the Red Berets were upset when a number of people they arrested on behalf of Zoran Djindjic's government were later handed over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Mr Lukovic was sacked from his job and later prosecuted for a number of violent incidents.

Our correspondent says that if he does indeed tell all in court it may shed light not just on the assassination of Mr Djindjic but also on the relationship between criminals, police and government in Serbia.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Prodger
"It was the moment Serbs had been waiting for"



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