PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegro on Thursday issued an international arrest warrant for a former CIA agent for alleged involvement in what the government said was a failed pro-Russia coup designed to prevent the Balkan country’s NATO membership.
Montenegro’s state TV said that prosecutors want the extradition of Joseph Assad, a U.S. citizen born and raised in Egypt, on charges of participating in a criminal enterprise led by two Russian military spy agency officers.
The Russians and 12 others, mostly Serbs, are on trial in Montenegro over the alleged election day plot in October 2016 that included plans to assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, storming parliament and taking over power. The Russians are being tried in absentia.
Montenegro’s prosecutors are investigating whether Assad was hired to help the 14 suspects on an escape plan. He was named during testimony by another former CIA agent at the trial.
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Assad has reportedly refused to testify and denied wrongdoing.
Assad and his wife, Michele, both former U.S. counter-terrorism officers, gained international attention when U.S. media said they helped more than 100 Iraqi Christians to escape Islamic State group violence and flee to Europe as refugees in 2015.
Assad’s whereabouts are currently unknown. He is said to be heading an Abu Dhabi-based security agency.
Montenegro joined NATO last year despite strong opposition from its longtime Slavic ally Russia. Moscow has denied accusations that it took part in the plot.
Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia.