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COURTSIDE: Visegrad Trial

Vasiljevic sticks to his alibi for Visegrad massacre as trial moves into final stages.

The presentation of evidence in the Visegrad trial last week ended with Mitar Vasiljevic defending once again his claim that he had broken his leg at the time when he was supposed to have taken part in the mass incineration of 65 Bosniak civilians in an abandoned house in the town in the early Nineties.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice referred to the arson in Visegrad's Pionirska street, in which among others a young woman and her two-day-old baby perished, in his opening statement in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, as an example of the crimes contained in the indictment of the former president for genocide in Bosnia.

Vasiljevic insists that on the day of the crime, June 14, 1992, he broke his leg and was in hospital in Uzice, western Serbia. The prosecution disputed the authenticity of the x-ray (i.e. questioned whether the leg in the picture was his), and produced a witness who said she saw Vasiljevic in a Visegrad school registering Bosniak refugees on June 22, 1992, when he was supposed to be in hospital.

Vasiljevic's defence responded last week by producing two Serbs from Visegrad who said the above-mentioned witness could not have seen the defendant, as she had not been present in the schoolroom where she claimed she spotted Vasiljevic. The reason, they said, was that most of the Bosniak refugees had been placed in one section of the school and the witness in another, so she had been in no position to observe the registration of the refugees.

The defence's final witness was the accused, making his second appearance in the witness bench. He maintained his story about the broken leg and said he scarcely recognised the witness, even though she claimed she knew Vasiljevic well. The closing arguments are scheduled for March 5 and 6.

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