A new witness appearing in Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic’s ongoing trial has accused Ivanovic of running a Serb mafia in Kosovo.
Oliver Ivanovic, the former leader of the Social Democratic Party of Serbia (SDP), is on trial in the Kosovska Mitrovica court for alleged crimes during the Kosovo war in 1999-2000.
Ivanovic is accused of being the leader of the “Bridge Watchers” group, which was active in Mitrovica, northern Kosovo, as well as being responsible for the murder of four ethnic Albanians in Mitrovica on April 14, 1999.
He is also charged in connection with the bombing of a cafe in Mitrovica which resulted in the death of 10 ethnic Albanians in February 2000.
Prosecution witness Shemsedin Ajeti, who participated in the trial through an internet connection on Monday, said he witnessed Ivanovic and former Kosovska Mitrovica police department chief Dragoljub Delibasic ordering armed men into a building in front of his brother’s apartment on Feb. 3, 2000.
According to Ajeti, two grenades were then thrown from the building, killing his nephew.
Ajeti also said he saw Ivanovic two days before the incident and asked him about his involvement in the ethnic unrest.
“I asked him, ‘Oliver, what are you doing?’ He told me that he couldn’t do anything else, because there were many [Serbs] coming [to get involved in the unrest],” Ajeti said.
He testified saying “I lived 50 to 60 metres from my brother’s apartment and outside his apartment there was a group of 100 Serbs who were all armed and had radio links.”
“I saw Oliver Ivanovic and Dragoljub Delibasic. I am 100 percent sure that I saw Oliver Ivanovic down there. He [Oliver Ivanovic] was their chief.”
Ivanovic and Delibasic are among five defendants who have all pleaded “not guilty” in the case, which started on December 18.
If the court finds Ivanovic guilty, he could face a lifetime prison sentence.
Tensions between the people of Mitrovica, a disputed region between Kosovo and Serbia, have remained high since the Kosovo war in 1999, when the area was divided between the ethnic Albanian community in the southern half of the city and the ethnic Serb majority in the north.
The ethnic Serbs in northern Mitrovica have been functioning as a separate municipality since 2013 in what they call North Kosovska Mitrovica.
The two ethnic groups often clash at the bridges that link the two sides of the region, which is under the control of UN troops to prevent violence between the two communities.
When Kosovo declared independence in February 2008, the situation in Mitrovica became more complex as a number of Kosovo Serb police officers did not accept the ethnic Albanians authorities.
Serbs tried to block ethnic Albanian government officials from working by blocking the bridges. The Serbs of Mitrovica still refuse to recognise the authority of the country’s courts and ethnic Albanian government officials.
However, in accordance with the 2013 Brussels Agreement, the majority of Kosovo Serbs decided to recognise the authority of Pristina’s security apparatus and voted in ballots, electing Serb officials who swore oaths to the Republic of Kosovo.