|Seat of the court. Photo: Belgrade Appeals Court.|
Serbia’s Appeals Court on Wednesday acquitted four men who were previously given suspended sentences for trying to set fire to the US embassy in 2008 during a protest against Kosovo’s declaration of independence. It also confirmed the acquittal of three other persons.
The ruling from December 17, published on Wednesday, acquitted Dejan Vuckovic, Dragan Marinkov, Marko Novitovic and Milan Tomas, who were given suspended sentences by the Higher Court in November 2017.
The court said the prosecution had not provided enough evidence that the defendants had caused the fire.
In confirmed the acquittal of Djordje Tomin, Nikola Kosanovic and Filip Backovic due to lack of evidence. The Appeals Court ruling is final.
At their first trial, in 2015, nine men received suspended sentences ranging from five to ten months, but a new ruling threw out that verdict, saying it was “contradictory”.
The embassies of the US, Germany and Croatia were attacked on February 21, 2008, in riots that broke out after Serbia’s former province of Kosovo declared independence.
After converging on the embassy of the US, Kosovo’s main ally, enraged crowds tried to storm the building, throwing various lighted objects and smashing doors and windows. One man, Zoran Vujovic, aged 20, from Novi Sad, died in the blaze.
The US and German governments have called on Serbia to prosecute those who allowed the attack to happen despite a heavy police presence.
Both governments said that finding the perpetrators should be a priority for the Serbian government. Berlin has warned Belgrade on several occasions that its EU integration progress depends on the investigation and its results.
A Serbian interior ministry group investigated claims of official negligence over the attacks and identified several police generals as suspects.
The group’s report was completed in 2014, and several police generals were questioned in 2015 about its findings. But no further action has been announced.
Other suspects are believed to be senior state officials connected to the office of the prime minister at the time of the unrest, Vojislav Kostunica.
Serbia has vowed never to recognise the independence of Kosovo, which nationalists view as the “cradle” of the medieval Serbian state. Most EU states and the US, however, recognised its statehood over a decade ago.