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COURTSIDE: Tuta and Stela Trial

Defendants challenge authenticity of Tudjman transcripts
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Defence counsels in the trial of two former HVO commanders in the Mostar area, Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic and Vinko "Stela" Martinovic last week questioned the authenticity of transcripts that the prosecution has offered as key evidence of Franjo Tudjman's involvement in the Bosnian war.


The prosecution says the transcripts of meetings held from 1991 to 1995 in the former Croatian president's office will prove he directly instructed the Bosnian Croat leaders on how to behave towards the Bosniaks.


The prosecution has already proved in three tribunal cases that the Bosnian Croats acted as direct agents of the Zagreb government, adding an international dimension to the Bosnian conflict.


However, the defense witness Milan Kovac last week said the court had no right to use this material. He said that when he returned to Zagreb he would demand a parliamentary investigation into how the transcripts came to The Hague.


Kovac, a deputy in Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, said anyone who had given away these transcripts had violated Croatian law and faced prosecution, even if that included Tudjman's successor as president, Stjepan Mesic.


Croatia placed a 30-year embargo on the use of the transcripts in 2000. Before they were "placed on ice", however, a number were publicised while others, about 127 in number, found their way to The Hague, apparently with Mesic's help.


The defense claims it is wrong to include these documents in the court file as proof that Tuta and Stela took part in an international conflict, because they are forged and the fact that there's no access to the original tapes of Tudjman's conversations.


Kovac said the documents were covered by official secrets legislation, which only the Sabor (parliament) could repeal.


Prosecutor Roland Boss said HDZ officials feared what the documents might reveal - which is why they do not want them made public. Kovac insisted he was only defending the rule of law. The trial continues.


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


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