News 07 Mar 16

Serbia Acquits Bosnian Policeman of Yugoslav Army Attack

Belgrade’s appeals court acquitted Bosnian ex-policemen Ilija Jurisic of an attack on the retreating Yugoslav People’s Army in the Bosnian town of Tuzla in 1992, overturning his original 12-year sentence.

Marija Ristic
Ilija Jurisic upon his return to Bosnia in 2010. Photo: BETA.

In its final decision, the appeals court ruled on Friday that there was no evidence to prove that Jurisic ordered the attack on the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, military convoy which was withdrawing from Tuzla at the beginning of the Bosnian war in 1992.

In 2013, Belgrade’s special court ruled for the second time that Jurisic was guilty because he issued an order to attack the convoy, despite an agreement to allow the JNA to peacefully withdraw.

According to the initial verdict, the JNA and Bosnian representatives agreed that the army could pull out of its barracks in Tuzla without being attacked, but the Bosnian side broke the deal and opened fire on JNA soldiers.

As a result of the attack, around 51 soldiers werekilled and at least 50 more were injured.

In its final decision on Friday, the appeals court said however that the rulings of the special court were handed down on the basis of “incorrect and incomplete facts” and so the 2013 verdict had to be annulled.

In 2015, the appeals court again questioned some of the witnesses and examined previous court materials, concluding that there was “no direct evidence” that Jurisic committed the crime listed in the indictment.

Jurisic welcomed the acquittal at a press conference on Sunday.

“Finally it happened, what I believed throughout my whole life –that the truth is the best tool for proving innocence,” he said.

Jurisic thanked the appeals court judges for their ruling.

“They were professional, not politicised. And as such they corrected the mistakes of lower courts. This is the moment I have lived for,” he said.

Jurisic, a Bosnian citizen, was arrested at Belgrade Airport in 2007 on the basis of an international warrant issued by Serbia.

The Serbian Prosecutor’s Office had taken over the case from the Serbian Military Court in 2004.

In 2009 Belgrade Special Court first sentenced Jurisic to 12 years in prison for criminally using illegal methods of combat, but the appeals court quashed the ruling in 2010 and sent the case for a retrial, which ended in the second conviction in 2013.

Jurisic was allowed to remain at liberty by the court pending the final appeal, and since then has been living in his hometown, Tuzla.

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