MADRID (AP) – Spanish police have arrested three men, including one who had been a fugitive for five years after being convicted for the 2003 assassination of Serbia’s prime minister, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Friday.
Vladimir Milisavljevic, Luka Bojovic and Sinisa Petric were arrested as they met in a downtown restaurant Thursday in the eastern coastal city of Valencia, the statement said.
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was killed by a sniper in front of government headquarters in Belgrade in March 2003.
In 2007, Milisavljevic was convicted and sentenced in absentia in Serbia to 35 years for his involvement in the assassination of Djindjic and to another 40 years for other crimes. He had been on the run since the slaying.
Milisavljevic was one of a dozen former gang members and paramilitaries sentenced for their roles in the assassination. The hit man and the mastermind got 40 years in prison.
Bojovic, 39, was wanted in connection with 20 murders in Serbia, the Netherlands and Spain, the statement said, and was also under investigation for other crimes in Switzerland, Romania and the U.S.
However, Maja Kovacevic, a judge and spokeswoman for Serbia’s Court for Organized Crime, which handles high-profile cases, said Friday that Bojovic is not wanted for Djindjic’s assassination but is wanted for three other unrelated killings.
Kovacevic told The Associated Press the indictment against Bojovic alleges that he took over and organized the fugitive members of the gang that killed Djindjic _ the Zemun Clan _ who managed to flee a police sweep that followed the assassination in March 2003.
All three of those arrested in Spain were members of the Serbian paramilitary group known as “Arkan’s Tigers” as well as belonging to Zemun Clan, the statement said. Arkan’s Tigers were known for sowing terror during wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.
Djindjic had led a popular uprising that toppled President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. He became Serbia’s prime minister in 2001, extraditing Milosevic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands, where the former leader died of a heart attack in 2006.
Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)