News 12 Jul 17

Serbian Security Official ‘Sent Guns to Croatian Serbs’

A prosecution witness at UN war crimes court accused former Serbian State Security official Franko Simatovic of delivering weapons to rebel Serbs in the Krajina area of Croatia in 1991.

Radosa Milutinovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Stanisic and Simatovic in court. Photo: MICT.

A protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-066 told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday that Franko Simatovic, also known as Frenki, sent weapons to the self-proclaimed Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina.

“Each shipment delivered by Frenki contained around 200 rifles ... That I can guarantee, because I unloaded them,” witness RFJ-066 said.

But when Stanisic’s defence lawyer Wayne Jordash asked him to specify how many rifles Simatovic delivered, RFJ-066 was unable to answer.

He said there were two big and several smaller shipments.

According to the charges, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, Jovica Stanisic, and his assistant Simatovic implemented a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcibly removing the non-Serb population from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for the sake of achieving Serb domination.

In order to prove the connection between the Krajina Serb leader Milan Martic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who according to the charges led the joint criminal enterprise, the prosecutors played Martic’s pre-election speech from 1993 in the courtroom.

Martic said in the speech that Milosevic was “a leader of all Serbs”, who “would never sell Krajina”, and advocated unification with Serbia.

RFJ-066 commented by saying that “Stanisic financed the [Martic] campaign with cash”.

During the cross-examination however, Stanisic’s defence lawyer sought to undermine the witness’s credibility by pointing to differences in his statements.

According to the lawyer, the witness said in a statement last year that Stanisic asked Martic to “send 150 policemen from Krajina” to the capital of Serbia during big anti-government demonstrations in Belgrade in March 1991.

RFJ-066 claimed that between 50 and 70 policemen policemen were transported from Belgrade by plane from Udbine airport.

But lawyer Jordash said “there is not a single piece of evidence, report or headline” indicating that members of the Krajina police were present on the streets of Belgrade in March 1991.

He also said the witness “was hallucinating” and invited him to prove his allegations. RFJ-066 said he was offended by this suggestion.

Jordash then presented the witness with a statement he made in 2003, in which he said the policemen were sent “in March 1992”.

“I gave the wrong year, you are completely right, 1991 or 1992, but it happened … I guarantee you that it happened. I know many of my colleagues who participated in it,” RFJ-066 responded.

In court on Monday, RFJ-066 also claimed that in the spring of 1991, Simatovic was the chief commander of Serbian special forces who carried out ethnic cleansing in the Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina.

“Frenki was the commander-in-chief... of ‘Frenki’s Men’ and State Security [forces],” RFJ-066 said in a statement via a video link, with his voice disguised.

According to his testimony, the fighters controlled by Simatovic “helped the Yugoslav People’s Army in the [ethnic] cleansing” of Croats from the area around Korenica in the Krajina region.

Stanisic and Simatovic both pleaded not guilty in December last year after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.

The tribunal ruled on December 15 that there were serious legal and factual errors when Stanisic and Simatovic were initially acquitted of war crimes in 2013, and ordered the case to be retried and all the evidence and witnesses reheard in full by new judges.

The trial continues.

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