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COURTSIDE: Tuta and Stela Trial

Bosnian Croat witness counters claims of discrimination against Bosniaks

Defence counsel for Mladen Naletilic "Tuta", accused of crimes against the Bosniak community in the Mostar area, last week called as a defence witness a former education and culture minister in the self-proclaimed Bosnian Croat entity known as Herceg-Bosnia.

To counter prosecution claims of cultural and educational discrimination against Bosniaks in Herceg-Bosna, Jozo Maric testified that his administration never intended to impose the Croatian language on them and only imported Croatian school textbooks because none were prepared or printed in Bosnia after war broke out in 1992.

Maric said Croatian educational advisers helped prepare the school curriculum in Herceg-Bosnia "exclusively for their professional skills and had nothing to do with politics".

The prosecution maintains Herceg-Bosnia was a separatist entity set up with a view to joining Croatia, and the military campaign of Naletilic and the co-accused Martinovic must be seen in that context.

Prosecutor Roeland Ross asked the ex-minister if the HVO destroyed Muslim cultural institutions, such as mosques. Maric put the blame on the Serbs.

"During the Serbian aggression in Mostar in 1992 only two out of 14 mosques were left untouched," he said. "Nine out of ten Mostar bridges were destroyed during that period." He said that they also damaged the famous Old Bridge in Mostar, neglecting to add that the HVO destroyed it in November 1993.

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

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