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COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

Witness speaks of brutal regime at Naletilic's headquarters.
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The trial of Mladen Naletilic "Stela" and Vinko Martinovic "Tuta" for crimes in the Mostar region last week heard allegations about murders committed by the former's henchmen.


Halil Ajanic, a former Bosniak detainee, said that in the summer of 1993 he witnessed a severe beating of another detainee at Stela's HQ. The victim had been a police detective, which may have given the soldiers a motive for the attack, as some of them had been previously investigated and interrogated by the police.


Ajanic said the other detainees at Stela' s HQ were made to perform forced labour before being returned to the Heliodrom detention camp. The beaten ex-detective was left behind in a bad state, he said. His body was later found with a bullet in the head.


The witness further testified about his son's death at the hands of Stela's troops several months later. When he found eight-year-old son was missing, and was last seen at Stela's HQ, Ajanic made inquiries. He said Stela seemed apologetic, after admitting the boy had died accidentally, detonating a grenade. He gave 180 German marks for the funeral.


The witness said he blamed Stela "100 per cent" for the death. He and the defence agree a German mercenary in Stela' s unit killed the boy, but disagree over whether Stela disciplined the mercenary.


However, Stela's defence counsel, Zelimir Par, then claimed his client had told him in a break in the trial that Ajanovic had offered not to testify in return for a payment of 10,000 marks.


The judges ordered the witness to remain an extra day in The Hague to make a statement under oath answering this claim. The trial chamber will decide whether it warrants proceedings for contempt of court.


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