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COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Trial

Tuta "not in command", defence witness claims.
By Mirna Jancic

Two protected witnesses at the trial of Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic and Vinko "Stela" Martinovic last week testified that the former had not commanded military operations in the Herzegovina villages of Sovici and Doljani, where Muslims are claimed to have been expelled or arrested and had property confiscated.

The defence team representing Tuta, who allegedly commanded a Bosnian Croat force known as the Convicts Battalion and committed crimes against Muslims, summoned one witness to testify that the accused was at his home on April 17, 1993 when the attacks on Sovici took place.

Another protected witness, a member of a Bosnian Croat HVO unit, had been present at Sovici and had not seen the accused there. The second witness told the court that Tuta had been relieved of command of the Convicts Battalion, and of all other posts, in autumn 1992. He then testified that he had seen the accused arrive in Doljani on April 19, 1993.

He insisted that Tuta was an "absolute propagator of unity between Croats and Muslims". The prosecution then presented the witness with a series of documents containing HVO orders to remove Muslim prisoners from nearby detention camps and use them as forced labour. The witness's signature appeared to be on the papers.

When questioned, the witness said he had had no authority to sign such orders, though he admitted that the signature could be genuine.

The prosecution's cross-examination continues on Monday.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

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