News 19 May 17

Lora Witnesses 'Don’t Recall' Crimes Against Serbs

Witnesses in the Lora case told the court they did not recall Croatian military police committing war crimes against Serb civilians and POWs in the Lora prison camp in Split in 1992.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Split. Photo Wikimedia Commons Mareksilarski

The retrial for war crimes committed against Serbian civilians and prisoners of war in the Lora prison camp in the Croatian city of Split in 1992 continued before Split County Court on Thursday, the Croatian news agency HINA reported.

Tomislav Duic, the former prison commander, and Emilio Bungur, a former military policeman, are on trial for two cases, codenamed 'Lora 1' and 'Lora 2', which are being processed together.

'Lora 1' concerns the maltreatment, beating and the torture of Serb civilians, two of whom, Gojko Bulovic and Nenad Knezevic, were killed.

'Lora 2' includes same crimes against Serb military prisoners, three of whom, Bojan Vesovic, Dusan Jelic and Vlade Savic, were killed and buried in the Bosnian town of Tomislavgrad.

Witness Mladen Tolusic, 49, a Croatian war veteran who served in Lora – officially a military prison – when crimes were committed, said he could not recall anything from the period, so judge Vladimir Zivaljic read out his previous statements.

“In Lora, there was a military detention [centre] led by Tomislav Duic. I don’t know who his deputy was. I don’t know what happened in the military detention, I only know that prisoners were getting the same food as the soldiers,” he said in his earlier testimony.

Another witness, also a Croatian war veteran, Davor Perisic, 50, who has changed his statements a number of times, also said he could not recall events, so the judge read out his previous statements.

In one of them, he said he remembered Bulovic and how other prisoners had informed him that he could not get out of bed. He then told the prisoners to take him out of the cell and he fell on the floor.

“I tried to reanimate him without success. I left him in the corridor … I didn’t beat Bulovic and don’t know if he was beaten by any of the prisoners. I just know that Duic banned anyone from entering their cells,” he said.

However, because in other testimony he said he did not remember Bulovic, Judge Zivaljic asked him on Thursday which account was correct. Perisic said he had nothing more to say and called the pressure on him to testify multiple times in court a form of maltreatment.

“I suffer from amnesia because I have big problems with my head and two of my children are very sick. I'm really sick. I can bring … documentation [proving that]. I have frequent headaches. I am totally frustrated and disappointed with what is happening in society and in the state. I took the call to defend the state and was ready to die for it,” Perisic concluded.

The bulk of the accused in the 'Lora 1' case were sentenced by the Supreme Court back in 2007. Deputy commander Tonci Vrkic was sentenced to eight years in prison, and two military policemen, Ante Gudic and Andjelko Botic, to eight years each.

In the verdict for the 'Lora 2' case in April, the Split court sentenced Vrkic to a joint prison sentence of ten years, while Gudic and Botic got eight years each.

Duic, arrested in February 2016 after 11 years on the run – and Bungur, arrested in August 2015 after ten years on the run – are being tried separately, while the Lora 1 case went for a retrial since sentence was previously delivered in their absence.

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