ISSN 2330-717X

Montenegro: Witness Retracts Coup Plot Testimony

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By Filip Rudic

A key witness in the Montenegro ‘coup plot’ trial, Sasa Sindjelic, claimed that the suspects behind the alleged attempt to overthrow the government did not plan a coup and only wanted to rally in support of the opposition.

Sindjelic said on Monday that the suspects in the alleged coup plot did not plan any violence on the day of parliamentary elections in 2016, going back on a previous statement he made before the Montenegro court.

“Nobody was even considering it [staging a coup]. It was about making a protest of support,” Sindjelic told Serbia’s TV Happy.

His statement contradicts his testimony to a Montenegrin court in 2017, when Sindjelic said he was hired by a Russian intelligence officer to organise the overthrow of the government to stop Montenegro from joining NATO.

When pressed about his conflicting statements, Sindjelic said that he does not want the people on trial – former Serbian police general Bratislav Dikic and other Serb suspects – jailed “over politics”.

Sindjelic was one of 20 Serbian citizens, including Dikic, to be accused in Montenegro in connection with the alleged plot.

The suspects’ alleged goal was to assassinate then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in a coup that would then bring the pro-Russian opposition to power on election day in Montenegro on October 16, 2016.

According to the prosecution, Sindjelic is the only person who had a direct contact with two Russians – Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, both believed to be military intelligence officers – who are accused of being the masterminds behind the alleged plot.

The investigators, whose findings were leaked to the media, claim Sindjelic received 200,000 euros from the Russians and distributed the cash to other members of the criminal group tasked with staging the coup.

In an unexpected twist, Sindjelic was given protected witness status in November 2016.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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