Zoran Djokic sentenced to 12 years in prison for war crimes

Suđenje Đokiću
Foto: RTS

A Pristina court, in a first-instance judgment, sentenced Zoran Djokic from Pec/Peja to 12 years in prison for war crimes today, Djokic’s defense attorney, Ljubomir Pantovic confirmed for KoSSev.

The first-instance verdict states that Djokic was found guilty of war crimes against civilians committed in March and April 1999. According to this verdict, Djokic shot at a vehicle transporting two children, who sustained injuries, and he took part in the attacks and expulsion of the civilian population in the settlement „Kristal“ in Pec.

The testimony of witnesses played a key role in the verdict – primarily two of the three witnesses who testified 21 years after the crime was committed.

Pantovic emphasized that at the beginning of the trial, a lawyer representing the families of the injured party proposed witnesses even though, as Pantovic claims, the legal deadline for proposing new witnesses had expired.

„The legal deadline expired before the start of the main trial at the second preparatory hearing, and the witnesses are allegedly victims of Djokic’s war crime, who did not show up to testify for 21 years,“ he says.

„This crime was investigated by UNMIK, EULEX, the Kosovo Police, and the District Court in Pec. No one ever mentioned Zoran Djokic, nor did the witnesses show up for 21 years, and they were obliged to report a war crime. They did not volunteer to testify even when Djokic was arrested. When I questioned them, they did not provide suitable answers as to why they did not report a war crime all these years, or to the event itself in which Djokic was allegedly involved. I claim that the lawyer brought them and instructed them what to say.“

Pantovic added that even those who are not up to speed with the case would find the fact that Zoran Djokic moved freely through Kosovo, where he lived, including his trips to Pec, and that he proved that, very revealing.

Pantovic revealed that he was shocked by the verdict, noting that he hadn’t dealt with a similar case in almost three decades of legal practice. „Of an innocent man being convicted thanks to not credible and trained witnesses, and outside the law,“ he added.

„Trust me, in all of my years as a lawyer, in 26 years, I have never seen anything like this. I have experience and I can recognize and discover a lie, and this innocent man is sitting in prison. Under normal circumstances, he would not have been charged, let alone convicted,“ he said.

Pantovic then shared his belief that Djokic was sentenced due to an alleged bias of the court.

Speaking of international observers who monitor trials, Pantovic said that this case was monitored „only by EULEX“, adding that their representative did not appear in court during the pandemic, until the closing argument today, when the verdict was pronounced.

This defense lawyer announced an appeal to the Court of Appeals, underlining that there are „decent judges“ of the younger generation in the court, but also that they are under pressure from the general narrative – finding Serbs guilty of war crimes.

He cited the case of Darko Tasic as an example, who was attacked by citizens in Prizren.

„It was an attack by citizens on the court building who intended to settle scores with the defendant, by attacking the car in which the defendant was transported from the prison to the court in where the verdict was to be announced. Practically a lynching.“

Zoran Djokic was arrested at the Jarinje border crossing and has been in custody since February 2, 2019. Two years after the arrest, the first instance trial ended in early February.

According to the indictment filed in June 2019, Djokic is suspected of „committing crimes against civilians in the settlement of Kristal in Pec in March and April 1999, in cooperation with an unidentified Serb criminal group.“ „They forcibly entered Albanian houses, forced residents to leave their homes, physically and mentally abused them, and murdered them“ – the indictment further reads.

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