Belgrade: Espionage suspect questioned, prosecutors want him in custody

Serbian prosecutors on Sunday questioned a man arrested in Belgrade on Friday on suspicion of spying for Croatia and the prosecutors asked that he be remanded in custody, on which a decision will be made by the end of the day.

According to reports in the Belgrade media, the arrested man is Cedo Colovic, a 57-year-old former officer in the Croatian Serb rebel army, born in Drnis, Croatia, and holding Croatian and Serbian citizenship.

The Serbian prosecutorial authorities said earlier that Colovic had worked and lived in Croatia until 1990 and that he later took up residence in Serbia.

After he was questioned, the prosecutors asked that he be placed in custody because he was a flight risk and might tamper with witnesses or repeat the crime he was suspected of. Under the Serbian Penal Code, espionage charges carry a possible prison sentence of 3-15 years or a minimum 10 years if espionage proves to have had serious consequences for national security or the country's economic or military power.

Commenting on the case, a former director of the Serbian Military Intelligence Agency (VBA), Momir Stojanovic, told the Belgrade media that it was important to establish which information Colovic had divulged to Croatia and who his helpers were.

Relations between Croatia and Serbia are very complex and this arrest will definitely not contribute to their stabilisation, Stojanovic told the Politika daily.

He said that the arrest was encouraging if it heralded the commitment of Serbian security services to do what they were expected to do, but that it was a bad move if the motive behind it were daily political affairs.

Stojanovic went on to say that it was well known that people living in Serbia and born in Croatia or the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina were "targeted by the Croatian intelligence service" because they frequently travel to those countries to visit their property there or regulate status or property-related matters.

"It is an open secret that a large number of them are interrogated, blackmailed or threatened into working for Croatian intelligence services. Some do not agree to it, others are blackmailed into it. The arrested man was probably blackmailed with some evidence dating back to the time when he was an army commander in the war," said Stojanovic, confident that German intelligence services are behind the activity of Croatian intelligence services in the Balkans.

Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac has said that Croatia has not received any official notification from Serbia regarding the arrest of the Croatian citizen suspected of espionage and that the Croatian state leadership has no information that the arrested man is connected with any of the Croatian services.

The news of the arrest comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Croatia and Serbia are very much strained, primarily because of a Serbian law on universal jurisdiction which enables Serbian authorities to prosecute Croatian citizens for war crimes committed in Croatia's territory against Croatian citizens.

Last update: Sun, 04/09/2016 - 17:16

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