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Courtside: Tuta & Stela Trial

Tudjman advisor denies Croatian involvement.
By Mirna Jancic

The closest advisor of Croatia's late president Franjo Tudjman last week testified that his country had taken no part in the Bosnian conflict, and had instead pursued a policy of peace towards its neighbour.


Ivic Pasalic had been summoned by the defense in the trial of Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic and Vinko "Stela" Martinovic, who are accused of crimes against Muslims in the Mostar area of south-west Bosnia in 1993.


The defense aims to disprove prosecution claims that the Tudjman government aided Bosnian Croat HVO forces in establishing a Croat state-within-a-state known as Herceg-Bosna, with the goal of annexing it to Croatia.


The parliamentary deputy, who attended countless meetings with Tudjman, said his old boss was only involved in international talks on Bosnia as representative of the Bosnian Croats, at their request and that of the international community.


He also told the tribunal how Tudjman had dismissed Lord Ashdown's interpretation of a drawing the former Croat president is alleged to have made on a dinner menu, showing Bosnia divided into Serbian and Croatian parts.


He said the drawing, claimed to have been made at an official dinner in 1995, merely showed the "line of global separation between western and eastern Europe, which was as such already published in NATO studies".


Pasalic added that he did not even recognise the handwriting on the menu as being that of his former president.


The defense then asked Pasalic to confirm the authenticity of transcripts of Tudjman's meetings that the prosecution is using in an attempt to prove Croatia's complicity in the Bosnian war. A government commission is being set up to determine if they were indeed the ex-president's transcripts, he said.


Under prosecution cross-examination, Pasalic admitted the transcripts were normally made at Tudjman's request, so they may have been accurate.


The prosecution then tried to discredit the witness by pointing out his objection to Croatia's cooperation with the tribunal over the two 1995 military operations codenamed Storm and Lightning, which led to the indictment of General Ante Gotovina.


Pasalic replied that he drew on legal arguments to suggest the perpetrators of war crimes should be tried at home, not in The Hague, and said he could not remember how he had advised Tudjman over calls for Tuta's extradition.


During the testimony of the next witness, HVO medical corps head Ivan Bagaric, Tuta could be seen passing notes to his counsel Kresimir Krsnik. The trial was then unexpectedly adjourned after Tuta announced a "misunderstanding" with his defence team, and only recommenced after a three-day delay.


Tuta is reportedly worried by prosecution objections to the submission of defence evidence on the conflict's Croat victims, on the grounds that he and Stela are charged with crimes against Bosniaks and thus the material is not relevant.


Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.


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