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COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Talic dismisses French defence team for not turning up in court.
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Momir Talic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused of crimes in north-west Bosnia, last week sacked his French defence counsel and appointed a Belgrade lawyer, Slobodan Zecevic.

His decision came after the French team had been absent from the courtroom for months, leaving Talic to be represented by assistant counsel Natasa Ivanovic Favaut.

This was not the only incident involving Talic last week. In an unprecedented move for a defendant, he stood up when witness Mirzet Karabeg was testifying and claimed the evidence given was false. Judge Carmel Agius allowed him do so, as long as he did not make a long speech.

Talic was provoked by quotations from the diary of Sanski Most's former mayor, Nedeljko Rasula, which related to remarks made by Talic at an April 1992 meeting, which had been convened try to prevent an outbreak of fighting in the municipality.

The prosecution claims the Banja Luka crisis staff - which Talic belonged to and which co-accused Radislav Brdjanin presided over - planned and coordinated crimes against the non-Serb population. The diary said that Talic did not accept Bosniak and Croat demands that military checkpoints be removed. Talic denied these events had taken place.

Quotes from the defendant's statements, made when he was regional military commander, were read out in the court. Talic had allegedly told the local population that the Yugoslav army would guarantee their safety and that they should not call for outside help unless they "wanted another Vukovar" - referring to the eastern Croatian town reduced to rubble in 1991 by fighting between the Croats on one side and Serbian and Yugoslav forces on the other.

Karabeg said that in spite of Talic's words, the situation in Sanski Most "became even worse" after the commander's visit. The witness told the tribunal that the accused had asked him to call if the situation deteriorated, which he later did. He said that after the defendant described Rasula as a Serbian "extremist", he had concluded Talic was "honest and sincere".

But the next day he realized that he could not rely on the commander after he saw him on television hugging the Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic.

The witness said he then concluded that Talic was lying and that the Serbian leaders "were saying one thing and doing another". The trial continues.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.

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