In an attempt to discredit Ratomir Tanic in the cross-examination, Nikola Sainovic’s defense counsel ended up restoring some of the witness’s credibility by showing that he was not just a small-time police informant but an agent who had been “hooked to a foreign intelligence service” by the Serbian State Security Service in the early nineties

As they cross-examined Ratomir Tanic today, the defense counsel for Milan Milutinovic and Nikola Sainovic mostly recycled the arguments Slobodan Milosevic had used in May 2002 to discredit both the evidence and the personality of the first Serbian insider to testify at his trial.

Milutinovic's defense counsel Eugene O'Sullivan noted that after Tanic’s first testimony at the Milosevic trial, the persons from Belgrade he had referred to in his evidence had reacted to his words. Dusan Mihajlovic, the president of the New Democracy Party denied in a TV interview that Tanic had ever been authorized by him and Milosevic to participate in the “discreet negotiations” to achieve a political settlement for the Kosovo problem. He described his erstwhile foreign policy advisor as an “observer, not a participant” in the political life in Serbia. The New Democracy information service issued a press release claiming that Tanic was a “party sympathizer”, not a member of its inner circle, as Tanic tried to present himself in court. Vuk Draskovic also issued a statement denying the allegation that Milosevic had told him in a telephone conversation, allegedly overheard by Tanic, that “there will be no cessation of hostilities with NATO”, because Serbia “needs more civilian casualties to show that NATO is a criminal organization”.

Tanic responded to the allegations in the same way as he had when Milosevic had made them four years ago. “Obviously,” he said, “everybody is now distancing themselves from me, washing their hands of what was going at the time, primarily the responsibility for not ending the war [with NATO] earlier”. In his examination-in-chief, Tanic said that in early 1999, he had managed to get the Western states to offer a proposal for the ending of the NATO campaign. He did so thanks to his “intelligence ties” in the West. The terms were quite acceptable for Serbia, but Milosevic rejected them.

In an attempt to discredit Tanic, Toma Fila, representing Nikola Sainovic, ended up restoring some of his credibility at the end of the session today, by showing that Tanic was not just a small-time police informant, but an agent the Serbian State Security Service “hooked to a foreign intelligence service” in the early nineties. This is what Zoran Mijatovic wrote in his book, Wake for State Secret Fila quoted today. Mijatovic used to be number two man in the Serbian State Security Service. He also discloses that Tanic had “ties with the British secret service” and that “he had contacts with important persons, managing to turn some of them”. After hooking him to the foreign intelligence service, the Serbian State Security gathered “quite a lot of compromising material” on Tanic as a safeguard against any attempts by Tanic to defect to the other side. According to Mijatovic, this was not a difficult job “because Tanic liked money”.

The book quoted by Sainovic’s defense counsel shows that Tanic had links with the foreign services and had contacts that were able to provide him with the relevant information he testified about. But not only that: it reveals how the Service prepared to discredit the defectors. In late 1999, Ratomir Tanic left both the Service and Serbia, defected to a third country and placed himself at the disposal of the ICTY.

Tanic’s cross-examination will continue tomorrow.