Court charges Serb group with bid to kill Milosevic

BELGRADE, Feb 3, 2000 -- (Reuters) The military court in Belgrade has charged a group called the Serb Liberation Army with attempting to assassinate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a local news agency said on Wednesday.

"The Belgrade military court indicted a group of people from Krusevac, charging them as members of the Serb Liberation Army with planning the assassination of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Nebojsa Pavkovic, a high ranking Yugoslav army officer, Beta news agency said, quoting lawyer Borivoje Borovic.

Borovic, the lawyer for one of seven indictees, said they were charged with forming a "terrorist" organization and also trying to kill opposition leader Vuk Draskovic. Arrested in December, they were aged between 26 and 64.

Borovic expressed surprise with the court's decision, Beta said, "because there is no proof that the defendants prepared an assassination on Vuk Draskovic nor that they planned to kill Milosevic and Pavkovic".

Borovic is also lawyer for Draskovic's party.

Beta said he had earlier said that far from planning to attack Serb politicians, the group was focused on fighting the separatist ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army after Yugoslav security forces withdrew from Kosovo in June.

The Serb Liberation Army, whose initials mean WASP in Serbian, was first heard of in October when it assumed responsibility for the murder of four members of Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement in a mysterious car crash.

Draskovic, injured in the crash, alleged the authorities had ordered a truck driver to swerve into his convoy of cars and charged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government with "state terror," a charge the authorities have hotly denied.

Yugoslav Information Secretary Goran Matic earlier hinted that another group, called PAUK, or Spider, might have been responsible for the car crash, saying the group, made up of Serb paramilitaries, was trained in truck crashes.

Matic said Pauk, which he said was sponsored by French intelligence and had committed war crimes in Bosnia, Africa and Kosovo, had also tried to assassinate Milosevic. He has yet to reveal details.