News 01 Jun 16

Croatian Serb Rebel Leader’s Trial Starts in Zagreb

The trial of Milan Martic, the leader of rebel Croatian Serbs during wartime, and Milan Celeketic, his military chief-of-staff, started in their absence at a Zagreb court.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Milan Martic in court in The Hague in 2007.

The trial of Milan Martic, the former president of an unrecognised wartime Serb rebel statelet called the Republic of Serbian Krajina, and his military chief-of-staff, Milan Celeketic, started on Tuesday at Zagreb county court.

The case is being heard in their absence because Martic is currently serving a war crimes sentence in Estonia, while Celeketic lives in the northern Serbian town of Subotica and the Belgrade authorities refused to extradite him.

Judge Tomislav Jurisa started by reading the indictment, which alleges that both men ordered and organised rocket attacks on Zagreb, as well as the central Croatian towns of Karlovac and Jastrebarsko, in reprisal for the Croatian military’s Operation Flash in the western Slavonia area in May 1995.

As Martic was already convicted of the attacks on Zagreb by the Hague Tribunal in 2008, he is now only indicted for the attacks on Karlovac and Jastrebarsko, while Celeketic is accused of attacking all three cities.

Seven civilians were killed in the attacks on Zagreb, but there were no fatalities in Karlovac and Jastrebarsko, only damage to buildings.

After reading the indictment, the first video and audio evidence was presented to the court by the prosecution.

One of the videos was Martic’s well-known statement to TV cameras immediately after the rocket attacks, when he admitted ordering the assaults on the Croatian towns.

“For this what [1990s Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman did, as a counter measure, we bombed their cities - Sisak more than once, and Karlovac and Zagreb, yesterday and today… If they continue to attack our forces, which are surrounded, we’ll continue to hit Zagreb, to destroy their towns,” Martic said in the video.

Although the indictment was filed back in 2003, the court case was delayed because the indictment had to be altered after Martic was sentenced to 35 years by Hague Tribunal for helping to organise the ethnic cleansing of all non-Serbs in the area under his control, as well as the Zagreb rocket attacks.

The trial is continuing on Wednesday.

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