Four former Serbian intelligence officers have been jailed for the 1999 murder of prominent journalist Slavko Curuvija.
A special court sentenced the four men to a total of 100 years in prison for their involvement in the killing.
Curuvija was shot 13 times outside his central Belgrade home in April 1999 during the NATO bombing campaign.
He was one of the fiercest and most influential critics of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević in the 1990s.
The 49-year-old was the owner and editor of two leading independent newspapers — the daily “Dnevni Telegraf” and the weekly “Evropljanin”.
A few days earlier before his death, pro-government media had labelled Curuvija a “traitor” for calling on NATO to bomb targets in Serbia.
According to national media, the former officers were founding guilty of murdering Curuvija “to protect the regime”.
Radomir Markovic, the former head of the secret police, and Milan Radonjic, the head of the Belgrade branch of the secret police, were each sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment.
Two other intelligence officers Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak — who remains on the run — each received 20-year prison sentences.
The four men had already been found guilty in 2019 but the verdict was overturned by the court leading to a retrial. The latest verdict is also subject to appeal.
Markovic is already serving a 40-year sentence for the 1999 murder of four other opponents of Milošević and the 2000 death of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic. Radonjic and Romic are also under house arrest.
The three-week NATO bombing on Belgrade was launched against the former Yugoslavia in response to Milošević’s violent crackdown on Albanian separatists in Kosovo.
The US-led campaign effectively ended the Kosovo War, which killed more than 13,000 people.
Milošević was eventually ousted in a 2000 uprising, and died in his cell while awaiting verdict for war crimes in The Hague in 2006.
More than two decades later, journalists are still intimidated for criticising Serbian authorities.
In 2020, 32 journalists suffered physical attacks and nearly 100 reported threats, according to the Association of Independent Journalists of Serbia.