By Milivoje Pantovic
Former Yugoslav Army general Momcilo Perisic has gone on trial in Belgrade for alleged espionage, accused of passing confidential military documents to the United States.
Momcilo Perisic, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav Army and deputy prime minister of Serbia, went on trial on Wednesday at the High Court in Belgrade for allegedly passing state secrets to the United States.
Perisic, who is on trial alongside two other men, lieutenant-colonel Miodrag Sekulic and civilian Vladan Vlajkovic, has pleaded not guilty.
The trial has been closed to the public after the prosecution said the defence ministry and the Serbian Army wanted the documents that were allegedly passed to the US to remain confidential.
However the defence protested against the court’s decision to hold the trial behind closed doors, arguing that the documents could be seen on the website of the Hague Tribunal, Serbian public broadcaster RTS reported.
The army prosecutor filed charges against Perisic in 2002, while he was serving as the head of the parliamentary committee for security, accusing him of handing over secret data to a US diplomat at a hotel in central Serbia.
According to media reports, Perisic met US diplomat John David Neighbor and gave him military documents about the army’s participation in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.
Both were arrested, but Neighbor was quickly released because he had diplomatic immunity, and the US immediately denied that any secret data had been handed over.
The case was overseen by the Belgrade military court until 2005, when it was transferred to a regular court in the Serbian capital, but proceedings were then suspended when Perisic was sent to The Hague for trial.
He was acquitted of war crimes by the Hague Tribunal in 2013.
The Tribunal’s appeals chamber ruled that Perisic was not responsible for the wartime atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serb Army in Sarajevo and Srebrenica because it was not under the command of the Yugoslav Army.
It also found him not guilty of failing to punish his subordinates who participated in the shelling of the Croatian capital Zagreb.
Speaking about the espionage accusations in his only media interview after his war crimes acquittal, he said that because he managed to win a case at the Hague Tribunal, he could win in a Serbian court as well.