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Serbian court acquits US Marine veteran of weapons charges

BELGRADE, Serbia — A Serbian court on Tuesday acquitted a former U.S. Marine charged with illegal possession and distribution of weapons, saying there was not enough evidence.

The case of Daniel Corbett, reportedly a U.S. Navy SEAL reservist, has made headlines in Serbia since he was arrested in a Belgrade apartment along with three Serbs in January last year.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that at the time of his arrest Corbett was in possession of a firearm with erased serial number. Stefanovic said that this "implies that something was going on, but I cannot say any more than that."

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, center, who was arrested in Moscow at the end of last year, waits for a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 24, 2019. The American was detained at the end of December for alleged spying. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)
Case of Marine veteran held as spy in Russia stalls without answers

The arrest of a Michigan corporate security executive on espionage allegations in Russia seemed to his family like a horrible mistake, a misunderstanding that could be quickly resolved with help from the U.S. government.

Pro-Russian, government-controlled Serbian tabloids had claimed the American citizen planned to assassinate a senior Serb politician and destabilize the country.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who was allegedly one of the targets of the assassination plan, commented at the time that it was obvious that Corbett did not come to Serbia "to shoot fish in the Danube River."

Corbett's case drew more attention after his lawyer was gunned down in Belgrade last summer. It is not known whether that crime, which remains unsolved, was in any way linked to the case.

BuzzFeed News has reported that Corbett served with Navy SEAL units in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the SEAL team that killed al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden.

The Higher Court in Belgrade acquitted Corbett Tuesday, but sentenced two Serb co-defendants to up to 25 months in jail for possession of arms and explosives. A third Serbian suspect received a suspended sentence for drug possession.

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