The story about a former legionnaire who was convicted for the assassinations of Prime Minister and President of his country

Milorad Ulemek Legija and Zoran Djindjic

Milorad “Legija” Ulemek was born 15 March 1968 also known as Milorad Lukovic is former French foreign Legion paratrooper, a former commander of the Serbian secret police special unit, the Special Operations Unit (JSO) and a former paramilitary commander, who was convicted of the assassinations of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and former Serbian President. He was also convicted of conspiracy in the attempted murder of Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic.

Although he was problematic in his early teens, he finished an auto mechanic program and medical school in Belgrade. After a botched robbery in 1985, Ulemek fled to France.

French Foreign Legion

On 10 April 1986, he joined the French Foreign Legion where he stayed for 6 years in the 2 REP, serving in Chad, French Guyana and Yugoslavia. He was given the nom de guerre “Legion” (Legija) because of his military career in the Legion.

During his service and as a sergeant, he did a tour in Yugoslavia as a translator for the French Army. On his return, he did not come back from his leave and was considered as a deserter from the French Foreign Legion and went back into Yugoslavia when the Wars erupted in 1992.

Serb Volunteer Guard

He joined the Serb Volunteer Guard in 1992 under the control of Serbian warlord Arkan. Ulemek became one of Arkan’s closest friends and a commander of the unit. He commanded the ”Super Tigers” special unit that operated in eastern Slavonia. The unit was disbanded in April 1996, and all of its members were ordered to join the Yugoslav Army.

Red Berets

In 1996, following the dissolution of the Serb Volunteer Guard, on the request by the head of the State Security Service Jovica Stanisic, Ulemek joined the re-structured JSO. The unit was famously known as the “Red Berets” for their apparel. In 1999, Ulemek became the leader of the “Red Berets”, and became the official commander of “JSO SDB Serbia” in April 2001.

The Red Berets were used during Milosevic’s rule for special operations in CroatiaBosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, as well as for the elimination of Milosevic’s political opponents. In April 2001, he resigned after the pressure from the political leadership.

President assassination

In 2000, the former President of Serbia, Ivan Stambolic, disappeared. He vanished while jogging only a month ahead of the election.

Mr. Ivan Stambolic was president of the Balkan republic from 1986-87 and was rumored to have been planning a political comeback against Milosevic in the 2000 election.

Three years later, his body was found in woods outside Belgrade. The police revealed that Serbs who were members of the secret police, including Milorad Ulemek, had murdered him.

Prime Minister  assassination

On 12 March 2003, some members of JSO who were connected to the notorious Zemun Clan, organized the assassination of Zoran Djindjic, with Ulemek being named the main organizer. Following the assassination, Ulemek was named the prime suspect and after 14 months of hiding, he surrendered in May 2004. Ulemek claimed that he had been hiding in his house the entire time, which made a lot of controversy in public, The Djindjic’s murder trial was the first organized crime trial in Serbia. The trial saw widespread threats to the trial chamber, as well as witness intimidation and the murder of a witness. The first trial chamber president left the proceedings in August 2005. In verdict by Special Court for Organized Crime in Belgrade Presiding Judge Nata Mesarovic, Djindjic’s assassination was described as “a political murder, a criminal act aimed against the state”, in which police officers and the mafia had joined hands to kill Djindjic and gain political power. Ulemek’s deputy in the “Red Berets”, Zvezdan Jovanovic, was convicted of shooting Djindjic. Ulemek was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the organization of Djindjic assassination. After several trials, Ulemek was sentenced to a total of 137 years in prison for his crimes.

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