The wartime commander of the Croatian forces in Pakrac, Dragutin Andric, testified on Monday at the war crimes trial of Tomislav Mercep how he was forced to shell the local Orthodox Church.
Andric said that the deputy commander of Mercep's unit, Nikola Rukavina, "forced him at the gun point to shell the tower of Pakrac’s orthodox church from the tank".
Andric added he does not know whether Mercep knew about that incident, adding "he shelled left and right of the tower".
The tower of the Pakrac Orthodox Church was destroyed during war in Croatia 1991-1995, as was the nearby Catholic Church tower. Both churches have been renovated since.
The witness said that Mercep's unit came to the Pakrac area in October 1991, after Andric's superiors announced that a special unit of the Interior Ministry is coming to Pakracka Poljana, and that Andric "would not have any authority over it“.
According to the witness, upon his arrival Mercep confirmed that his unit is under the command of the Interior Ministry and the “orders were given from the very top”.
Andric testified that he later heard stories that people were taken away and their houses searched. He informed the command about that, but was told that everything was taken into account, and that he does not have to ask about it any more.
Mercep once told Andric that there are ‘soft’ Croats, "who are afraid to do some things“, and the ‘tough’ ones, "who are supposed to win the war“. Mercep classified Andric among ‘soft’ ones, witness said.
Mercep, one time top advisor to the Croatian wartime Interior Minister, has been charged, as commander of a police unit, to have personally ordered the unlawful arrest, torture and killing of Serb civilians from October 8, 1991 until mid-December 1991 in and around Zagreb and in the towns of Kutina and Pakrac in central Croatia.
According to the indictment, his police unit illegally captured 52 people, killing 43 of them, while three disappeared and six survived torture.
Mercep came to the trial as a free man for the first time, since he was released on July 5 due to his bad health.
The trial continues on August 30, after the summer recess.