BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A Belgrade court considered Friday quashing the treason conviction against Gen. Draza Mihailovic for his collaboration with Nazis during World War II, which would politically rehabilitate the controversial Serbian guerrilla commander almost 70 years after he was sentenced and shot to death by communists.
For decades, Mihailovic's fate has fueled division in Serbia, where many see him as a hero who died for political reasons.
Dozens of nationalist supporters and leftist opponents of Mihailovic gathered in front of the Higher Court. They were kept apart by riot police.
It was not clear if the court would make the ruling on Friday.
Supporters of WWII Yugoslav communist partisans, however, maintain that he collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, and non-Serbs in the former Yugoslavia have accused his troops, known as Chetniks, of committing numerous atrocities.
"All legal conditions have been fulfilled for Mihailovic to be rehabilitated," said Oliver Antic, an adviser to Serbia's nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic.
Dusan Cukic, spokesman for a Serbian WWII veteran's union, said someone "who was on the side of Hitler's fascist hordes" should not be legally rehabilitated 70 years after communists liberated the country.
As a Yugoslav royal army officer, Mihailovic launched a resistance movement in 1941 against German occupation, before turning against communist guerrillas later in the war. When World War II was over, he was jailed and sentenced to death in a hasty trial. He was buried in an unmarked grave.
In 1948, U.S. President Harry Truman posthumously awarded Mihailovic the Legion of Merit award for his role in rescuing hundreds of U.S. airmen downed by the Nazis over Serbia.
Ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, who has been provisionally released from the U.N. war crimes tribunal, attended Friday's court session. His own "Chetniks" have been accused of numerous crimes during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Jovana Gec contributed.