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Montenegro overturns coup verdict for 2 Russians, 11 others

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Appeals court docket says 2019 verdict was marred by violations of prison regulation and new trial ought to be held.

A Montenegrin court docket has overturned the convictions of two Russians and 11 others over an tried coup in opposition to the pro-Western authorities in 2016 and has ordered a retrial.

On Friday, the appeals court docket stated the 2019 verdict was marred by violations of the prison regulation and {that a} new trial ought to be held earlier than completely different presiding judges.

The authentic verdict handed five-year jail sentences to 2 then-opposition politicians from the Democratic Front, a pro-Serb social gathering which is now within the ruling majority.

The politicians, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, have been accused of being a part of a “criminal organisation” plotting to topple then-prime minister Milo Djukanovic and halt his plans to carry Montenegro into NATO.

A former Serbian police common additionally obtained an eight-year sentence whereas the heaviest sentences, 12 and 15 years, went to 2 alleged Russian spies tried in absentia.

The verdict stated the group was organised by former Russian navy intelligence operatives.

After the defendants appealed, Podgorica’s appeals court docket introduced in an announcement on Friday it had “revoked the first-instance verdict”, citing “significant violations of the provisions of the criminal procedure”.

The ruling comes weeks after a authorities searching for nearer ties with allies Serbia and Russia took over from a long-ruling pro-Western administration within the small Balkan state.

The earlier Montenegrin administration led the nation to independence from Serbia in 2006 and defied historic ally Moscow in 2017 to hitch NATO.

In the 2016 ballot, the Democratic Front was the principle rival in opposition to Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), main critics to accuse the nation’s longtime chief of fabricating the case to spice up his political fortunes.

At the time, Moscow rejected the allegations of its involvement as “absurd”, whereas the US State Department hailed the sentence as a “victory for the rule of law” in opposition to “Russia’s brazen attempt to undermine the sovereignty of an independent European nation”.

While Djukanovic is now president, his DPS social gathering misplaced management of the parliament within the 2020 polls, sending them into the opposition for the primary time in many years.

It was not instantly clear when the brand new trial would begin.

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