Europe 1 with AFP 5:50 p.m., February 5, 2024, modified at 5:53 p.m., February 5, 2024

Several hundred people demonstrated Monday in Belgrade against the decision of the appeal court to acquit four former intelligence agents, convicted at first instance for the murder of a famous opposition journalist in 1999.

Slavko Curuvija, owner and editor-in-chief of two independent newspapers, was one of the most influential critical voices in 1990s Serbia. He was shot 13 times outside his home in Belgrade on April 11, 1999. Serbia was then under NATO bombs, an operation launched in response to the brutal repression by the Milosevic regime of the independence rebellion of the Kosovo Albanians.

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Former intelligence chief Radomir Markovic and another senior official, Milan Radonjic, were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Two other senior members of the security services, Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak, were sentenced to 20 years in prison each.

A decision condemned by Reporters Without Borders

They were all acquitted on February 2, a decision condemned by Reporters Without Borders, the OSCE, the Serbian opposition, the international community and associations defending journalists. In a statement, the Association of Judges of Serbia explained that it "shares the public's disappointment that after 25 years" the culprits have not been brought to justice, while calling not to blame the judges who handed down the verdict.

"This shows that the Institutions which were responsible [for the investigation, editor's note] the police, the prosecutor's office and the court did not do their duty", adds the association, "the public can legitimately wonder what failed here.”

On Monday, a crowd of several hundred people observed 25 minutes of silence, to denounce “25 years without justice”. This acquittal, “it is a message from the State to journalists, to tell them that they are not protected,” reacted Zeljko Bodrozic, president of the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists. “And what citizens can see is that they themselves are not protected if journalists are not protected.”