One of the defendants indicted for war crimes in the Medak Pocket in western Croatia has been released after the indictment was sent back to the prosecution for further clarification.
Josip Krmpotic, a former Croatian army officer, was released from custody on Wednesday after the County court in Zagreb asked the prosecutor to reframe the war crimes indictment against him more clearly.
The war crimes indictment against another former Croatian soldier, Velibor Solaja, was accepted by the court.
Solaja and Krmpotic, the former commander of the 9th Croatian guard brigade "Wolves" scout unit, are accused of killing Serb civilians and captured soldiersand with burning down houses, in September 1993, in the area known as "Medak Pocket", near the town of Gospic in western Croatia.
The two men were arrested on March 1 this year, together with three other former Croatian soldiers who participated in the Croatian army assault on the Medak Pocket in 1993. The three other soldiers were later released, but Solaja and Krmpotic were retained in custody, and formally charged with war crimes.
The indictments against the two men were originally filed in August. The indictment against Krmpotic will have to be resubmitted, following the Zagreb court’s ruling on Wednesday.
Krmpotic is accused of ordering the execution of four prisoners of war and with burning down abandoned Serb houses.
Solaja is accused of personally shooting an old woman in the village of Citluk in the Medak pocket.
In September 1993, the Croatian army launched a limited military operation in the area known as the Medak pocket to push back Serbian forces from the town of Gospic.
After the success of the operation, UN forces asked the Croatian army to pull back to its original positions.
During the withdrawal, Croatian forces killed 23 Serb civilians and five captured soldiers and totally destroyed several villages.
The International Criminal Court of the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, indicted three high level Croatian officers who commanded the operation for the crimes committed in the Medak Pocket.
The former Croatian army chief of staff, Janko Bobetko, died before the trial started.
The trial of the other two indictees, Mirko Norac and Rahim Ademi, was transferred from the ICTY to Croatia in 2007. Norac was sentenced to six years imprisonment, while Ademi was released.
After the trial, the human rights NGO Amnesty International, claimed that the Croatian judiciary has failed to prosecute one more high Croatian army officer, Davor Domazet, for his alleged involvement.
The cruelty of the crimes committed in Medak Dzep have made them the most notorious of the atrocities carried out by Croatian forces during the 1991 – 1995 war for independence.
The state prosecutor’s office announced that the perpetrators would be investigated and prosecuted in 2003. However, no action was taken until the arrest of Krmpotic, Solaja and three other former soldiers in March this year.