A witness at war crimes trial against a top advisor in Croatia's wartime Interior Ministry Tomislav Mercep, testified on Monday about "cries and screams“ he heard while imprisoned in Pakracka Poljana in 1991.
Stevo Brajenovic, former customs official, recalled how he was captured in Zagreb in November 1991, and brought to a police station where all his valuables and documents were taken away from him.
From Zagreb he was taken to the village of Pakracka Poljana, about 50 kilometers from the city, where Mercep’s police unit, the so-called “mercepovci”, were stationed.
There, Brajenovic was beaten and shot in the stomach by one of the guards.
“I heard them saying they would take me to the field, throw me into the hole and shoot 32 bullets in me. I could hear cries and screams coming from the other cells. I did not want to be tortured, so I escaped through the window,” Brajenovic testified.
But he was recaptured, tortured and shot again, he said. Then one of the guards came and said that Brajenovic was captured by mistake, so he was taken to a hospital were he recovered.
Witness Dragutin Grguric, former Croatian soldier based in the small town of Pakrac, near Pakracka Poljana, said in court that during the war Mercep was considered “one of the pillars of defence of Croatia”.
The president of the wartime Crisis Headquarters in Pakrac, Slavko Gamauf, testified that he talked to Mercep and his subordinates about logistics regarding Mercep's unit’s accommodation in the Pakrac area.
“In my whole life I have never met a more polite man than Mercep,” Gamauf told the court.
Mercep 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.
The trial continues on Tuesday.
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