Two police officers who admitted to tampering with evidence at the scene of the murder of the Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic have been released from custody following a hearing in the Basic Court of Mitrovica, according to Balkan Insight.
During the hearing the prosecution said that security camera footage recorded at the scene of the crime showed one of the officers, who was only identified by the initials Z.J, picking up a bullet casing and putting it in his pocket. According to the prosecution, the other officer, identified as D.M, failed to react when he saw Z.J doing this. The officers also failed to prevent a passer-by from walking across the murder scene, possibly compromising its forensic value.
While admitting their client’s misconduct, the defence argued that they acted “out of ignorance and lack of training, and not deliberately.” The officers apologised for their actions and the court ruled that they should be released since the prosecution now has all the evidence from the crime scene.
Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Serb “Freedom, Democracy, Justice” party was hit six times during a drive-by shooting in front of the offices of his party in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo on January 16. An ambulance was called by a neighbour but Ivanovic died on the way to the hospital.
The politician’s murder came just one month before the ten year anniversary of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia and on the same day that Serb and Albanian delegations were due to meet in Brussels to discuss the normalisation of relations. However, when news broke of his death, the Serb delegation pulled out of the talks and flew back to Belgrade.
Ivanovic was awaiting retrial having been found guilty in 2016 of being involved in the killing of ten Albanians during Kosovo’s war of independence from Serbia. In later years, however, he had come to be regarded as a rare voice for moderation who accepted Kosovo’s independence.
The Serbian president Alexander Vucic called Ivanovic’s killing a “terrorist act” and demanded the involvement of Serb authorities in the investigation. Pristina rejected this demand, however, Kosovan investigators, comprised of both Kosovar Albanians and Serbs, have kept Belgrade informed about the developments to date, but nothing yet is known about the perpetrators.