PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — A Montenegrin court on Friday overturned the convictions of two Russians and eleven others over an attempted coup against the pro-Western government in 2016, and ordered a retrial.
The Appeals Court said the 2019 verdict was marred by violations of the criminal law and that a new trial should be held before different presiding judges.
The ruling comes weeks after a government seeking closer ties with Slavic allies Serbia and Russia took over from a long-ruling pro-Western administration in the small Balkan state.
Among those convicted of the thwarted coup were two top politicians of the now-ruling coalition. The verdict said the group organized by former Russian military intelligence operatives wanted to overthrow the government to prevent Montenegro’s accession into NATO.
The previous Montenegrin administration led the country to independence from Serbia in 2006 and defied historic ally Moscow in 2017 to join NATO.
The two Russian citizens were tried and sentenced in absentia in Montenegro to 15 and 12 years in prison. The remaining suspects received lesser sentences.
Russia has denied involvement.
It was not immediately clear when the new trial could start. Montenegro’s current government took over after narrowly winning a parliamentary election in August.