Montenegro prosecutor seeks to jail opposition leaders

AP News
Posted: Feb 13, 2017 12:50 PM

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegro's special prosecutor on Monday asked the national assembly to lift the immunity of two senior opposition leaders allegedly involved in a pro-Russian plot to overthrow the government.

Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic wants immunity removed so that Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic could be detained and eventually put on trial for criminal conspiracy and inciting "acts against constitutional order and security of Montenegro."

An assembly commission approved the motion on Monday before it is decided in a parliamentary vote.

Some 20 people — including two Russian citizens — have been accused of participating in the plot in October that allegedly included plans to kill the prime minister and take over power to prevent tiny Montenegro from joining NATO.

Mandic and Knezevic — who are senior leaders in a pro-Russian coalition opposed to NATO membership — have dismissed the plot allegations as "fiction."

Knezevic said he won't try to flee Montenegro to avoid arrest.

"I have no intention to go anywhere," he told reporters. "Those who come to arrest me must be ready for that task."

Mandic, who has made frequent visits to Moscow including earlier this month, has warned of mounting political tensions in the small Balkan country of 620,000 people who are divided over joining NATO.

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"I hope prosecutors will come to their senses to avoid developing a scenario of civil clashes," Montenegrin state TV quoted Mandic as saying during the past weekend.

The opposition has demanded a referendum on Montenegro's NATO membership, and Mandic has threatened to organize one without parliament's approval.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in the alleged coup plot, but has actively supported local groups that oppose having the traditional Slavic ally become the 29th member of the Western military alliance.

Montenegro is expecting to wrap up the membership process by May.