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Witness Says War Crimes Suspect Bragged Of 30 to 40 Killings With AM-Yugoslavia

March 23, 1993

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The main defendant in Bosnia’s first war crimes trial, Borislav Herak, once bragged that he had killed 30 to 40 people, a former prisoner guarded by Herak testified Tuesday.

The former prisoner, Mirsad Ljebo, 31, said he had been captured by Serb soldiers and was digging trenches for them when Herak made the boast.

Herak has confessed to 30 murders of war prisoners and civilians, as well as numerous rapes of captured Muslim women. His co-defendant, Sretko Damjanovic, has recanted his confession of five murders, saying he was beaten into making false statement.

The two men stood face-to-face Tuesday at the judge’s request, each sticking by their contradictory accounts. Herak at one point reiterated his claim that Damjanovic shot and killed a young Muslim woman after she was gang- raped; Damjanovic denied this.

Ljebo, 31, said he was taken prisoner last summer at a village north of Sarajevo. He said he was forced to dig trenches and graves, cut wood and transport looted goods.

″One day, I was digging trenches, and Herak was guarding me,″ Ljebo said. ″He was forcing me to keep going even though I was exhausted. He stuck me with his bayonet.

″When I resisted, Herak told me he had killed 30 to 40 people and would kill me if I didn’t continue,″ Ljebo said.

Ljebo said he escaped on his second attempt, running through Serb fire to a group of Bosnian soldiers.

The trial was recessed until Friday, when closing arguments will begin. Herak and Damjanovic could receive the death penalty if convicted.

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