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COURTSIDE: Foca Prison Trial - Krnojelac Family 'Tragedy'

Wife and son of Milorad Krnojelac make emotional appeals at the witness stand that he be acquitted

The wife and son of former Foca prison warden Milorad Krnojelac took the witness stand last week and made emotional appeals for his acquittal, claiming he was not responsible for crimes committed against Bosniak detainees in the prison during his spell in charge.

Following on from evidence given by the defendant's brother Arsenije (See Tribunal Update No. 224), Krnojelac's wife Slavica said, "I have known him for 40 years and I know that he is not capable of doing what he is accused of." She said her husband was not a nationalist nor a national party member and had been "ordered" to take the job at the prison.

Slavica, a Bosnian Croat, admitted asking her husband back in 1992 about the Bosniak detainees. She said he had calmed her down by saying he had nothing to do with people held by the military.

"It was difficult for my father to watch those people being brought into detention without being able to do anything to help them," said Krnojelac's son, Bozidar.

Slavica and Bozidar recounted, sometimes in tears, the tragedies that had befallen the family as a result of the wars in Bosnia. Their house was burnt down in the first few days of the conflict in the Foca area. Soon after, Bozidar and one of his three brothers were wounded in a booby trap explosion. Bozidar lost both legs. Finally, Krnojelac was indicted and arrested for crimes they say he was not responsible for.

Prosecutors claim that as warden Krnojelac had much more authority than the defence claims. Last week, the prosecution pointed out to Slavica that detainees had been taken from the prison to rebuild the Krnojelac family house, which constituted forced labour. Krnojelac's wife said the municipal authorities decided on how detainees were used. "I treated them to food and coffee," she said.

Details of the warden-detainee relationship will be explored in greater depth when the next witness, Milorad Krnojelac, takes the stand.

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

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