BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Former NBA star Vlade Divac was cleared Friday of draft dodging in his native country.
Prosecutors dropped the charges a day after Serbian Prime
Minister Vojislav Kostunica came to the player's defense. Kostunica
said Divac had "proven his patriotism innumerable times during his
long career" in basketball.
"What hurt me the most was the negative way my country was
presented [in the U.S.] through this case," Divac said at a
meeting with Serbia-Montenegro's Defense Minister Zoran Sankovic.
Earlier this week, the Serbia-Montenegro army filed the charges,
claiming that the 37-year-old Divac was obliged by law to join the
army for the compulsory six-month military service by the age of
35. Draft dodging carries a one-year prison sentence in Serbia.
The case drew much attention in Serbia, where Divac is revered
as a national hero for helping the former Yugoslavia to silver
medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics, and leading the country now
known as Serbia-Montenegro to a gold medal at the 2002 world
Divac, who voiced surprise over the charges, said in a statement
he had filed all of the necessary documents for postponing army
duties on a regular basis with the Serbia-Montenegro embassy in the
Milovan Bozovic, a Belgrade district prosecutor, said the
charges were unfounded because all holders of dual nationality are
not obliged to serve in the military in Serbia-Montenegro.
Divac has had dual Serbian-American citizenship since living in
the United States for the past 16 years.
Divac ended his 16-year NBA career last month, taking a job with
the Los Angeles Lakers as a liaison and scout in Europe.
He was one of the first Europeans to have a major impact in the
NBA, being drafted by the Lakers in 1989 and later playing for the
Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings.