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COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Trial

Prosecution presents rebuttal evidence as trial enters its final stage.
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The Mostar trial entered its final phase last week, with the prosecution calling witnesses to contest the evidence recently produced by the defence.


The chamber allowed the prosecution to tackle four issues. First was the Croatian Defence Force, HVO, attack on Bosniaks in the villages of Sovici and Doljani, which the indictment claims was the responsibilty of Mladen “Tuta” Naletilic, former commander of the Convicts Battalion.


After the defence claimed the accused was not in charge of the attack and was not even present, the prosecution produced a new witness to confirm Tuta’s involvement in the action and his participation in the interrogation and mistreatment of captured Bosniaks.


A second rebuttal issue concerned an entry in an HVO soldier’s diary, which describes the Sovici attack. The prosecution again tried to establish the credibility and authenticity of the handwriting, which has been contested by the defence.


Two remaining issues concerned charges against the second accused, Vinko “Stela” Martinovic, a low-ranking commander in Tuta's battalion.


His defence team has denied that he was responsible for the beating and murder of a Bosniak policeman at Stela’s headquarters. A former Bosniak detainee - who apparently buried the body - testified that he was ordered to do so by one of Stela's subordinates. The witness claimed that the corpse was later identified by the family of the dead officer.


Finally, the prosecution once more tried to prove that in September 1993 Stela ordered detainees to dress in HVO uniforms and carry wooden replica rifles, with the aim of using them as a human shield in an attack on Bosniak positions in Mostar.


The defence has insisted detainees were not mistreated at Stela's headquarters and were not put in harm's way.


However, the prosecution last week presented the court with a model of wooden rifle brought from Bosnia. It is claimed that a former witness in this case had identified it as being identical to the fake rifles given to detainees before the September 1993 attack.


The defence will have a chance to respond to the rebuttal evidence next week. The closing arguments have been scheduled for October 29.


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


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