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Will Zorana Mihajlović testify: Awaiting trial for a major mining accident

A year and two months since the last major mining accident in Serbia and the suffocation of eight miners – it is not yet known whether there will be a trial. What is currently being discussed the most is whether the basic prosecutor from Aleksinac will bother to call the Minister of Mining and Energy at the time of the accident – Zorana Mihajlović. Because she was officially proposed by the families of the victims, and she offered herself, since after the accident, she publicly requested an investigation.

Although after last year’s mining accident in “Soko” it refused to initiate proceedings, arguing that there were not enough elements, the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office from Aleksinac is now dealing with this tragedy. And that, because after the complaints of the injured parties, the Higher Prosecutor’s Office from Nis ordered them to reconsider all the evidence. Only now did some of the surviving miners testify before the prosecution. The others are expected to do so in mid-June.

“We have everything that happened, every second in the mine recorded,” said Zorana Mihajlović, former Minister of Mining and Energy, on April 1, 2022.

Then why is that video not in the files at the Prosecutor’s Office, asks the legal representative of the families of the dead miners, lawyer Bratislav Stojanović. He recalls that on the night of the accident, a mining engineer was also in the pit because it was known about the increased danger of methane release. It was later discovered, he says, that the mine did not even have a permit to work.

Bratislav Stojanović, the lawyer for the families of the dead miners, points out that the workers noticed that on that critical night there were frequent shutdowns of the machines due to the appearance of increased concentrations of methane (that’s how the protective system was installed), so it remains unclear why the engineer on duty did not react, stopped work and thus averted disaster.

The families are now officially looking for Zorana Mihajlović as a witness. She filed a criminal complaint herself after the accident, while she was still in the department.

“It included 14 people, among them was the engineer on duty who was working in the mine on a critical night,” notes Stojanović.

Zorana Mihajlović on the proposal to testify:

“Everything the Prosecution says – whoever has to testify will testify!” Anything that can help to clearly see who is responsible. If the assessment is that I can help – I’m here. Inspector Zorica Vukadinović, who was on the scene after the accident and made the report, signed it, can and should testify about the irregularities in the work, because the inspector is independent in his work, so he signs it.”

At the time of the accident, the minister avoided giving a precise answer to the question of whether she expected the Aleksinac prosecutor’s office, which had already rejected the initiation of court proceedings, to accept calling her to testify. She wrote, however, that everything she said stems from “inspection documents that are in the criminal complaint.”

“They were forgotten even on the day of the funeral.” That day was not even a day of mourning. I have the impression that the eight of them were immediately forgotten,” said the wife of the deceased miner Bojan Stajić.

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