COURTSIDE: Tuta and Stela Trial

Focus remains on Croat unification claims.

COURTSIDE: Tuta and Stela Trial

Focus remains on Croat unification claims.

The defence in the trial of two former commanders of the HVO Convicts' battalion last week continued to be preoccupied with the general nature of the self-styled Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna, rather than the specific events in 1993 mentioned in the indictment.

As the trial entered its tenth week, Kresimir Krsnik, a defence witness for Mladen "Tuta" Naletic and Vinko "Stela" Martinovic rejected the prosecutor's claim that the Bosnian branch of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, harboured any plans for the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the unification of Croat-held land with Croatia proper.

"That is not true," he said. "In all our documents we clearly speak of BH (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and of our future within BH."

He said the fact that Bosnian Croats preferred to use German marks as their currency rather than Croatian currency showed they had no plans for any union, not even a monetary one, with Zagreb.

Ivan Bender, president of the assembly of the self-proclaimed Croatian statelet, last week testified as defence witness in the trial of the two men accused of the murder, rape, detention, molestation and deportation of Bosniaks in Mostar in 1993.

Bender spoke of overall conditions in Bosnia before the outbreak of conflicts between Croats and Bosniaks, of the establishment of Herceg-Bosna and the present situation in the country.

Prosecutor Kenneth Scott said Herceg-Bosna had continued "for a long time after the (1995) signing of Dayton, and some would say that it still exists". Bender said this was untrue, as "Herceg-Bosna had transferred its functions to the Federation".

The prosecutor pointed to the fact that in 1998, the High Representative Wolfgang Petrich banned Bender from running for office for attempting to keep Herceg-Bosna alive and obstructing the work of Federation bodies. The witness admitted this but said it was illegal. "As a lawyer I must say that it was illegal and illegitimate," he said. The trial continues.

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

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