The Supreme Court of Kosovo overturned the verdict of a special department of the Basic Court in Pristina, which sentenced Ivan Todosijevic to two years in prison for „inciting national hatred, discord and intolerance“ and decided to return the case to a new trial, lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic confirmed for KoSSev yesterday after receiving the verdict. The new trial is set to begin on February 11th.
In December 2019, the Basic Court in Pristina sentenced the Srpska Lista official, former minister and head of the Provisional Authority of the Municipality of Zvecan, Ivan Todosijevic, to two years in prison over a statement he made during the 20th anniversary of the bombing – that „Racak was fabricated“.
In the middle of last year, in a second instance procedure, the Appellate Court confirmed the verdict of the Basic Court.
In the meantime, Todosijevic’s defense attorney, Nebojsa Vlajic, sent a request for protection of legality to the Supreme Court, which delivered its verdict to Vlajic yesterday.
„The verdict states that the request for protection of the legality of the defense attorney was adopted and that it was completely founded,“ Vlajic told KoSSev.
Ivan Todosijevic’s defense counsel underlined that he submitted this request due to several violations of the Criminal Procedure Code. The same was confirmed by the Supreme Court, which then annulled the verdicts of the lower courts.
The case will be returned to the special department of the Basic Court in Pristina for a new trial. A hearing has already been scheduled for February 11th, when the new court process will start, Vlajic specified.
Speaking of the reasons the verdict was overturned, Vlajic says that the court could not determine with certainty that a serious form of the crime of inciting national hatred, discord and intolerance actually took place:
„Was the act committed by abusing office, because Todosijevic was a minister in the Kosovo government at the time, or was it done in another way?“ added Vlajic.
During the proceedings, he revealed that he repeatedly underlined that this was not a case of abuse of office because Todosijevic was not addressing the citizens in Zvecan in his capacity as a minister.
„It would be ridiculous for a Serb, even though he is a minister, to speak in the northern areas from the post of a minister. If he had said – ‘I am addressing you as the Minister of Kosovo,’ he would have been booed at, stoned or boycotted. It has nothing to do with his official post,“ Vlajic further explained.
Although confirming that public figures do need to heed what they are saying, Vlajic also stressed that this falls under a political responsibility – not a criminal one. He also added that Todosijevic was already punished for it after being dismissed from the post of a minister in the Kosovo government.
According to Vlajic, the Supreme Court did not take note of this main argument of the defense:
„That Todosijevic did not commit a crime, and that what happened falls under freedom of speech guaranteed not only by Kosovo regulations but also by the European Convention on Human Rights.“
According to Vlajic, Todosijevic expressed regret several times during the court proceedings, confirming that he did not intend to offend anyone and that he has great respect for all victims of the Kosovo war.
Vlajic argues that those who know Todosijevic, including his colleagues from Pristina, are well aware that what Todosijevic is saying is true.
Vlajic also clarified how the Supreme Court justified the fact that the court panel that tried Todosijevic was solely comprised of Albanian judges.
“The Supreme Court said that the Brussels Agreement on the composition of the court panel would be implemented, however, the Law on the Special Court, which stipulates that the special department is competent for this case, was passed after the Brussels Agreement and the court believes that the court in Pristina composed exclusively of Albanians could preside in this case,“ Vlajic said, noting that he does not agree with this and that he will point it out in the new court proceedings.
Vlajic said that the indictment has not been changed so far, adding that it may be changed in the future.
„Because in this appeal procedure, I proved that what he is accused of saying – that it is not the same as what is on TV and what he really said,“ he explained.
Vlajic confirmed that Todosijevic is on trial for the full statement he gave at the commemoration of the anniversary of the bombing.
„The cause of the aggression on our country was a so-called humanitarian catastrophe in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, the fictitious Racak, and these Shiptar terrorists were the ones who invented it, who committed the biggest atrocities in Kosovo and Metohija for which no one was held responsible. They committed crimes before the NATO aggression, killed good Serbian hosts at their workplace. They continued their rampage during the aggression, as well as after that with the arrival of the so-called peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and Metohija,“ Todosijevic said on the occasion.
Vlajic claimed that he “has no faith” in the Kosovo judiciary, and that he does not have high expectations, but that he will do everything in his power:
„To prove that every person in Kosovo, regardless of which ethnicity he belongs to, has the right to think and say whatever he wants, regardless of whether anyone from another ethnicity likes that or not,“ Vlajic concluded.
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