COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

Protected witness tells of Tuta's plans to create a Bosniak-free state

COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

Protected witness tells of Tuta's plans to create a Bosniak-free state

Saturday, 10 November, 2001

A former Spanish intelligence officer, who worked for UNPROFOR in Herzegovina in 1993, testified last week in the trial of Mladen Naletilic "Tuta".

The former UNPROFOR officer, known as protected witness LL, gave details of conversations he had with Tuta in the weeks preceding the HVO attack on Bosniak population of Mostar in May 1993, for which Tuta is standing trial.

According to LL, Tuta and his fellow HVO commanders openly discussed their plans to create the Bosniak-free state of Herzeg-Bosnia, within the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Spanish officer first heard about the plans from Tuta and Colonel Ivan Andabak while at dinner at Andabak's house. This colonel was, according to prosecution witnesses, deputy commander to Tuta in the Convicts' Battalion.

Its members were said to have led major attacks in the Mostar area and were known for cruel treatment of Bosniak detainees. The second accused at the Mostar trial is a sub-commander in that battalion, Vinko Martinovic "Stela".

Witness LL saw Tuta as highly positioned officer who planned, financed and controlled military operations. Tuta himself told him that a number of HVO colonels were under his command.

The Spanish officer dismissed the suggestion by the defence that Tuta may have had a drink too many during the dinner and said things that were not necessarily precise. He made sure to check with other HVO sources if the information he heard from Tuta and Andabak were correct and he found out they were.

The day before the attack in Mostar took place, the witness saw Andabak dressed in a black uniform and threaten that "heads would fall and roll that night". The Spanish officer also confirmed the prosecutor's claims about arrests and detention of Bosniak civilians at the Mostar football stadium and Heliodrom barracks.

The prosecutor' s case continues next week.

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

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