Defense: Croat General Is Innocent
Jul. 30, 1999
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Attorneys defending a Croat general charged with conducting a campaign of terror against Muslims during the Bosnian war said Friday their client is innocent and should be released immediately.
Prosecutors at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal have charged Gen. Tihomir Blaskic, 38, with crimes against humanity, war crimes and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
They say he orchestrated massacres in 1992 and 1993 that left hundreds of Muslims dead in central Bosnia and caused thousands more to flee their homes.
In the closing minutes of her husband's 25-month trial, Blaskic's wife wept in the public gallery as attorney Anto Nobilo demanded his client be acquitted, describing him as ``an honorable man and an honorable general.''
Judges, who will likely take months to reach verdicts, did not release Blaskic.
According to his 1995 indictment, troops under Blaskic's command unleashed bloody attacks against Muslim women, children and men, burning and plundering their homes and mosques and driving them from their villages in the Lasva River Valley.
At the time of the attacks, Blaskic was a colonel in the Bosnian Croat militia. He was promoted to the rank of general in Croatia shortly after his indictment in an apparent snub to the tribunal by Zagreb authorities.
His defense said Blaskic was shocked and upset by the attacks. They presented a letter in which he apologized to a Bosnian Muslim for damage inflicted to his business.
Blaskic insists he only trained local soldiers and advised villagers on military tactics. He said he had no control over troops held responsible for massacres.
Summing up their case earlier this week, prosecutors argued he was in total control and asked the three-judge panel to send Blaskic to jail for life.
They argued he was responsible for atrocities in the Lasva River Valley, including the notorious April 1993 massacre of more than 100 Muslims in Ahmici village.
They also enraged Croatian authorities by arguing that President Franjo Tudjman's desire to annex parts of Bosnia were behind the purge _ a claim rejected by defense attorneys.
The 25-month trial was the longest in the history of the tribunal, established in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council.