Slava Novorossiya

Slava Novorossiya

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


            100 years ago on this date, October 28, 1914, the verdict and sentences of the Sarajevo Trial was announced.

The Sarajevo trial in progress. Princip is seated in the center of the first row.


Austro-Hungarian authorities arrested and prosecuted the Sarajevo assassins (except for Mehmedbašić who had escaped to Montenegro and was released from police custody there to Serbia) together with the agents and peasants who had assisted them on their way. The top count in the indictments was conspiracy to commit high treason involving official circles in the Kingdom of Serbia. Conspiracy to commit high treason carried a maximum sentence of death which conspiracy to commit simple murder did not. The trial was held from 12 October to 23 October with the verdict and sentences announced on 28 October 1914.

The adult defendants, facing the death penalty, portrayed themselves at trial as unwilling participants in the conspiracy. The examination of defendant Veljko Cubrilović (who helped coordinate the transport of the weapons and was a Narodna Odbrana agent) is illustrative of this effort. Cubrilović stated to the court: "Princip glared at me and very forcefully said 'If you want to know, it is for that reason and we are going to carry out an assassination of the Heir and if you know about it, you have to be quiet. If you betray it, you and your family will be destroyed.'" Under questioning by defense counsel Cubrilović described in more detail the basis of the fears that he said had compelled him to cooperate with Princip and Grabež." Cubrilović explained that he was afraid a revolutionary organization capable of committing great atrocities stood behind Princip and that he therefore feared his house would be destroyed and his family killed if he did not comply and explained that he knew such an organization existed in Serbia, at least at one time. When pressed for why he risked the punishment of the law, and did not take the protection of the law against these threats he responded: "I was more afraid of terror than the law."

In order to refute the charge, the conspirators from Belgrade, who because of their youth did not face the death penalty, focused during the trial on putting blame on themselves and deflecting it from official Serbia and modified their court testimony from their prior depositions accordingly. Princip stated under cross examination: "I am a Yugoslav nationalist and I believe in unification of all South Slavs in whatever form of state and that it be free of Austria." Princip was then asked how he intended to realize his goal and responded: "By means of terror." Cabrinović, though, testified that the political views that motivated him to kill Franz Ferdinand were views held in the circles he traveled in within Serbia. The court did not believe the defendants' stories claiming to hold official Serbia blameless. The verdict ran: "The court regards it as proved by the evidence that both the Narodna Odbrana and military circles in the Kingdom of Serbia in charge of the espionage service, collaborated in the outrage."

Prison terms, death sentences and acquittals were as follows:

20 years
20 years
20 years
16 years
13 years
Lazar Đukić
10 years
Death by hanging (executed 3 February 1915)
Death by hanging (executed 3 February 1915)
Nedjo Kerović
Death by hanging; commuted to 20 years in prison by Kaiser Franz-Joseph based on Finance Minister's recommendation
Mihaijlo Jovanović
Death by hanging (executed 3 February 1915)
Jakov Milović
Death by hanging; commuted to life in prison by Kaiser Franz-Joseph based on court's and Finance Minister's recommendation
Mitar Kerović
Life in prison
Ivo Kranjcević
10 years
Branko Zagorac
3 years
Marko Perin
3 years
Cvijan Stjepanović
7 years
Nine defendants
At trial Čabrinović had expressed his regrets for the murders. Following sentencing, Čabrinović received a letter of complete forgiveness from the three young children the assassins had orphaned. Čabrinović and Princip died of tuberculosis in prison. Those under the age of 20 years at the time of the crime could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years under Austrian-Hungarian law. The court heard arguments regarding Princip's age, as there was some doubt as to his true date of birth but concluded that Princip was under 20 at the time of the assassination. Because Bosnia and Herzegovina had not yet been assigned to Austria or to Hungary, the Austro-Hungarian Finance Minister administered Bosnia and Herzegovina and had responsibility for recommending clemency to the Kaiser.

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