COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Muslim witness tells how he cheated death in Biljani.

COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Muslim witness tells how he cheated death in Biljani.

Saturday, 31 August, 2002

A prosecution witness in the trial of Radoslav Brdjanin and Momir Talic told the court last week how Serb forces in north-west Bosnia tried to kill him.

The trial of Talic and Brdjanin, who are charged with genocide against non-Serbs in the Bosanska Krajina region, resumed last week after the summer recess.

The witness, Husein Cajic, said that Serb troops assembled Muslims from surrounding villages and shut them in a junior school in Biljani on July 10, 1992. While waiting for buses to transport them to neighboring Kljuc, several Muslims were called out and taken outside the school, after which shots were heard.

Local officials of the Serb Democratic Party, SDS, who were in power at the time, allegedly monitored the transfer of people from the school onto buses. Cajic said that on his way to the vehicles he had to pass through a row of military policemen, who beat the prisoners.

His eyes met those of a Serb policeman who had worked in his café before the war, and Cajic said he hoped this man would save his life. However, the policeman in question hit him in the ribs with his boot and his fists, and the witness ran for the bus.

Cajic told the court that the bus stopped not long into the journey, apparently because there was not enough pressure in the tyres. Four Muslim men were taken off and the bus drove off, only to stop again after a short distance. They were allegedly told that the weight of the passengers still was too much for the tyres and five more men were taken off, including Cajic.

The witness claims the five men were taken behind a nearby house, where the bodies of the first four passengers lay dead in front of them.

Cajic's group was then fired upon but the bullets missed him. He feigned death and later escaped, hiding in the surrounding forests for three months before a Serbian friend of the family helped him escape to Croatia.

The witness told the court that following the war he took part in the exhumation of the bodies of Muslims killed in Biljani that day. He claims that at least 200 corpses have been uncovered.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor

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