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    Montenegro overturns the coup decision for two Russians, 11 others

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    The appeals court says the 2019 verdict was barred by a violation of criminal law and a new trial should be held.

    A Montenegrin court has overturned the sentence of two Russians and 11 others in a coup attempt against the Western government in 2016 and ordered a reconsideration.

    On Friday, the appeals court said that the 2019 verdict was barred by violation of criminal law and said a new trial should be held before various presiding judges.

    The original verdict sentenced two then opposition leaders of the Democratic Front to five years in prison, a pro-Serb party now in the ruling majority.

    The politicians, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, were accused of being part of a “criminal organization” and were trying to topple the then Prime Minister Milo Jokanovic and stop their plans to bring Montenegro to NATO.

    A former Serbian police general also received an eight-year sentence, while the heaviest sentence was in the absence of two alleged Russian spies, 12 and 15 years old.

    The verdict states that the group was organized by former Russian military intelligence operatives.

    Following the defendants’ appeals, Podgorica’s appeals court announced in a statement on Friday that it “quashed the verdict of first instance”, citing “significant violations of the provisions of criminal procedure”.

    The ruling comes weeks after the ruling government took over from allies of the ruling government and a long-standing Western administration in the small Balkan state of Serbia and Russia.

    The previous Montenegrin administration granted the country independence from Serbia in 2006 and in 2017 challenged historic ally Moscow to join NATO.

    In the 2016 election, the Democratic Front was the main rival against Jokanovich’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which led critics to accuse the country’s longtime leader of boosting his political fortunes.

    At the time, Moscow described its involvement allegations as “absurd”, while the US State Department condemned Russia’s “attempt to undermine the sovereignty of an independent European nation” as a “victory for the rule of law”. .

    While Jokanovich is now president, his DPS party lost control of parliament in the 2020 elections, sending him into opposition for the first time in decades.

    It was not immediately clear when the new trial would begin.

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