Former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman knew of Tomislav Mercep's crimes, but he did not want them prosecuted, testified former Croatian PM Josip Manolic on Tuesday at Mercep’s trial.
Manolic, who at the time of the indictment was the prime minister, said that "political attitude was not to prosecute "Mercepovci“ crimes, because the enemy would use the trials against us“.
Manolic confirmed that Mercep, one time top advisor in the Croatian wartime Interior ministry, commanded the „mercepovci“, adding that Mercep "compromised the government's no-provocation policy towards the Serb minority in Croatia“.
He also added that he was informed about the prison in Pakracka Poljana, and so was President Tudjman.
Tudjman ordered Mercep’s dismissal, but Mercep refused to resign and went from Pakrac to Gospic where he continued to command the unit.
The former Croatian minister for interethnic relations, Zivko Juzbasic, testified on Tuesday that "Mercep personally ordered the killings of civilians“.
At the time, many people complained to Juzbasic, who is a Serb, of the existence of armed units which were killing people, and Mercep's unit was one of them.
„Those were death squads,“ Juzbasic said.
He specified that between 20 and 30 people disappeared in the Pakracka Poljana prison.
"Hundreds of people asked me to help them,“ said Juzbasic, who served as the minister during the second half of 1991.
Mercep is charged, as a commander of the “Mercepovci” unit, with having personally ordered the unlawful arrest, torture and killing of civilians from October 8, 1991 until mid-December 1991 in and around Zagreb and in the towns of Kutina and Pakrac in central Croatia.