“A Serbian court on Tuesday issued suspended prison sentences for four suspects and acquitted three others who were tried in the 2008 torching of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade after a rally against Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

The U.S. embassy criticized the ruling, saying ‘it is difficult to understand how it has taken nine years to reach the verdict in this case … with the final result that none of the seven defendants, four of whom admitted in the presence of counsel to participating in a serious offense, was sentenced to serve time in jail.’

One person died in the 2008 rioting when the American and other Western embassies were attacked by groups of nationalists and soccer hooligans angry over what they perceived as Western support for Kosovo’s statehood. Several hundred people stormed the American embassy and set part of it on fire before police appeared and pushed the crowds away from the scene.

The Balkan country has refused to recognize the independence of Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-dominated former province, which split from Serbia nearly ten years after a war that ended with the NATO bombardment of the country in 1999.

While seeking to improve ties with Washington, Serbia also has been shifting toward closer ties with Russia, which supports Belgrade’s bid to retain its claim on Kosovo.

‘According to international law, the host country is responsible to protect foreign diplomatic establishments, and we also note that Serbian police withdrew from their normal posts near the U.S. Embassy only moments before the attack,’ the embassy statement added. ‘Those responsible for this step have never been held accountable.'” (ABC News)