A leading Yugolsavia [WORD ILLEGIBLE] politician with pro-Soviet sympathies went on trial here yesterday accused of attempting to bring Yugoslavia under foreign influence - a charge that cloud carry the death penalty.
Foreign diplomats believe that the trial of Mileta Perovic, could a former Yugoslav army colonel, be intended to dissuade the small numbers of Yugoslav Stalinists from imagining that the country will move closer to Moscow after the death of 5 year old President TIto. Perovic is accused of being the chief ideologist and orginzer of an an illegal Communists Party which wanted closer ties with the Soviet Union.
It is virtually a foregone conclusion that Perovis will be found guilty. On the basis of precedent, However, diplomats believe that any death sentence would be commuted immediately to 20 years in prison.
Just how Perovic turned up in Yugoslavia to face trail 20 years after fleeing to neighboring Albania has never been offically explained. He himself has claimed, according to his lawyer, that he was smuggled back in a car trunk after being kidnapped in Switerland.
As the hearing opened, the prosecutor asked that the trial be closed because official secrets were involved. The five men bench overruled objections from Perovic and his lawyers who argued that none of the documents involved contained politicial or economic secrets.
Perovic's sister, Senka, was, however, allowed to remain in court as his closest relative. His Russian wife and their 10 year old still live in Ukrainian city of Kiev - the base of a grouP of anti Tito exiles from 1958 to 1975.
A World War II partisan who opposed Tito's defiance of Stalin in 1948, Perovic was led into court in handcuffs by two policeman. He looked pale, thin and haggard - and more like 65 than his true age of 55.
His lawyer, Jovan Barvic, had earlier asked for a postponemnet of the ground of his client's ill health.
The indictment alleges that Perovic was c* losely involved in setting up the pro Soviet New Communist Party of pro Soviet New Communist Party of Yugoslavia which held a congress in April 1974. It states that he was elected party secretary general, although he did not attend the congress.
Most foreign observers believe that the new party was never more than an ideological pipe dream with no future. All 14 persons who attended the Bar congress were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Interest in the case has centered on why the authorities should have invested so much effort in bringing Perovic to trail, a process that will almost certainly prove embrassing to already strained relations with Moscow. It is understood that another pro Soviet emigre, Bordon Jovovic, is a awaiting trail after a mysterious disapearance from a foreign country.
One theory is that, by putting the two men on trial, Yugoslav authorities hope to discourage the Soviet Union from imagining that anything will change after the Tito's death. Privately, Soviet diplomats haveexpressed dismay at the Yugoslva action.