Serbia: Turbo Folk Star “Ceca” Acquitted of Assault Charges

On Wednesday, Belgrade courts acquitted popular Serbian turbo folk singer Svetlana “Ceca” Ražnatović and her sister’s husband, Predrag Ocokoljić, on charges that they threatened Aleksandar Olarević, the head of the Mladi Proleter football club, in 2007.

The judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to indict the two for the alleged crimes, reports the Center for Investigative Reporting in Serbia (CINS).

Ceca in concert in 2006

Ražnatović is a Serbian starlet and singer of turbo folk, a musical genre popular in the Balkans that combines folk music with Euro-pop and dance elements. She is the widow of Željko “Arkan” Ražnatović, who led the notorious paramilitary Serb Volunteer Guard. 

Arkan, who was charged with crimes against humanity in 1997 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), had a history of close ties to Serbian football teams. According to the ICTY indictment, in 1990 he used his position as the president of Belgrade’s “Red Star” football team fan club to establish his paramilitary group.

Olarević told OCCRP that Arkan became president of Mladi Proleter in 1998 when he put a gun into Olarević’s mouth and told him that Mladi Proleter was now his. After Arkan was assassinated in January 2000, his widow “Ceca” Ražnatović took over Mladi Proleter.

According to Olarević, the threats began in 2007, when, following the expiration of Ražnatović’s term—one allegedly fraught with mismanagement that led to unpaid workers and bills— he began looking for a new football club president.

Olarević said that Ražnatović and Ocokoljić visited him in March 2007, and Ocokoljić punched him in the face. Ražnatović allegedly threatened to kill him, saying that she wanted the club for herself, and that he knew who was supporting her.

Olarević also told OCCRP that Ražnatović’s bodyguards shot at him and his brother when they were watching a football match in the stadium in October 2007.

“We know the people who were shooting at us; they were in the war, Arkan’s people,” he said.

Ražnatović and Olarević, meanwhile, say they visited Olarević as representatives of Serbian football club FC Obilić, reports Balkan Insight. They claim they were only delivering the Sports Ministry’s decision to put Mladi Proleter under the jurisdiction of Obilić and rename it Mladi Obilić.

According to Balkan Insight, Ražnatović said she was pleased with the verdict.

"It happened finally that a court freed me," she said, referencing her past court proceedings. In 2011, Ražnatović pleaded guilty to misappropriating funds from FC Obilić and illegal firearm possession. She paid US$ 2 million as part of her plea deal.

If desired, the prosecution can appeal the decision to Belgrade’s appellate court.