COURTSIDE: Visegrad Trial

An alibi for the worst crime in the Visegrad indictment is put to the test.

COURTSIDE: Visegrad Trial

An alibi for the worst crime in the Visegrad indictment is put to the test.

Saturday, 13 October, 2001

The identity of a leg pictured in a hospital x-ray was the focus for the prosecution case last week in the Visegrad indictment. The x-ray is key to the alibi being offered by Mitar Vasiljevic, who is defending himself against claims that he was one of the chief perpetrators of a house fire in Visegrad which killed 65 Muslim on June 14, 1992.

Recent weeks have seen five survivors of the "Pyre Of Pioneer Street" identify Vasiljevic as one of those responsible. However, in the statement he gave to the tribunal in November last year, Vasiljevic says he has an alibi. In the document, the defendant claims that on the June 14 1992 he fell off a horse and suffered a broken leg when the animal fell on top of him.

On the same day, Vasiljevic says he was transferred to a hospital in Uzice, Serbia. After three weeks in hospital, he suffered a nervous breakdown brought about from alcohol withdrawal and was transferred to the hospital's psychiatric unit.

Supporting evidence was provided by the defence in the form of an x-ray from the hospital in Uzice and hospital medical records which are said to support Vasiljevic's claims. It is on this basis that Vasiljevic says he would not have been able to participate in the crime of which he's accused and is therefore innocent.

The prosecution ended its case with the testimony of Professor Yvan de Grave, a specialist in forensic medicine from Belgium. De Grave examined Vasiljevic in August and took new x-rays of his shin. These x-rays were then compared with those from the Uzice hospital. According to the professor, the differences between the two were such that in his opinion, "There is no reasonable possibility that these might be the x-rays of the same person."

Professor de Grave also pointed out that the label with Vasiljevic's name and the date of June 14 1992 had been stuck over one or more previous labels that had been attached to the x-ray. Finally, the Belgium professor drew attention to discrepancies in the hospital medical files provided by the defence, noting that in the files neither the date nor time of Vasiljevic's alleged injury were entered.

Previous witnesses, including Muslims from the village of Kortinik who survived the fire in Pioneer Street, have positively identified Vasiljevic and his co-accused, Milan and Sredoje Lukic, as the men responsible for the atrocity. It is said they herded the displaced Muslims into the abandoned house, which had been soaked with an inflammable substance, and set it alight. Vasiljevic and Milan Lukic then shot at anyone who tried to escape. Altogether 65 Muslims died in what is the worst crime in the Visegrad indictment.

Professor de Grave was the final witness in the prosecution case. The trial will continue on October 22 when the defence will begin to present its evidence.

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

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