COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

Witness speaks of brutal regime at Naletilic's headquarters.

COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

Witness speaks of brutal regime at Naletilic's headquarters.

Saturday, 12 January, 2002

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.

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