Montenegro tries nine for sending refugees to death

PODGORICA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Montenegrin police rounded up dozens of refugees who fled war-torn Bosnia in 1992 and handed them over to Bosnian Serb forces who later executed many of them, a Montenegrin state prosecutor said on Thursday.

In opening remarks at a trial in Podgorica, prosecutor Lidija Vukcevic said nine former police and state security officials violated international law, illegally detained and deported 79 Bosnian Muslim and Serb refugees.

"Most of the Muslims that were handed over to Bosnian Serb forces were later executed" in prison camps near the eastern Bosnian town of Foca, she said.

In 1992 Montenegro and its former federal partner Serbia, then led by strongman Slobodan Milosevic, formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia.

Then Yugoslavia openly sided with Bosnian Serbs and rebel Serbs in Croatia, aiding them with weapons, supplies and personnel.

The defendants in the case have denied the charges and said they were acting in line with policies of the government in Podgorica, then and now headed by the Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.

"Only a year later I have heard about deportations. It was apparently a secret operation and few people were familiar with it," said defendant Bozidar Stojovic, a former state security official.

Djukanovic, who in early 1990s allied with Belgrade, later opposed Milosevic's policies and led his country to independence in 2006.

In 2008, the Montenegrin government apologised to the families of deported Muslims and agreed to pay compensation amounting to a total of 4 million euros. (Reporting by Petar Komnenic; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Adam Tanner)