PODGORICA — A Montenegrin court has scrapped the guilty verdicts handed down in relation to a plot to overthrow the government in 2016.
The Appeals Court on February 5 annulled the first-instance verdicts issued in the so-called “plot coup” trial, citing “significant violations of criminal procedure,” and asked the High Court to retry the case.
In May 2019, a group of 13 people were convicted on terrorism charges and creating a criminal organization as part of an October 2016 attempt to overthrow the government and scupper the country’s NATO membership bid.
The High Court sentenced the group to a total of nearly 70 years in prison, concluding a trial that the then opposition claimed was politically led.
Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, two pro-Russian leaders of the Democratic Front that is now part of the ruling coalition, two alleged Russian military intelligence officers (GRU), and eight citizens of Serbia were among the convicts. The two Russians, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, were sentenced in absentia.
The court found that the group plotted to occupy the country’s parliament during 2016 parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership.
Russia has denied any involvement.
Dukanovic, who staunchly supported NATO accession, has been serving as the president of Montenegro since 2018.
His long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) had ruled the Balkan country since the early 1990s until a three-member coalition led by the Democratic Front came to power following general elections held in August 2020.