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Kordic & Cerkez Trial: General Merdan Testimony Continues

A Bosnian general testifies to Kordic's role in negotiations over the Sarajevo airport, as the prosecution stresses Croatia's direct involvement in the war.

General Dzemal Merdan - former deputy commander of the 3rd corps of the Bosnia-Herzegovina (BH) Army - resumed his testimony in the case against Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez. Merdan continued to insist on "his deep conviction, that Dario Koric had an extremely important role in political and military life in central Bosnia, and, particularly, in making important decisions."

Kordic is accused of being responsible for crimes committed against Bosniaks (Muslims) in central Bosnia in the period between 1991 and 1994. The indictment states that "according to his position he had the power and command over Croatian Defence Council (HVO) actions."

During cross-examination Kordic's defence counsel, Mitko Naumovski, requested from Merdan "concrete examples" that Kordic made key decisions and that HVO military commander in central Bosnia, Tihomir Blaskic, was obliged to listen to him.

The defence has argued consistently that the Bosnian Croat Army was responsible to its military headquarters in Herzegovina and not to the political leader in central Bosnia, Kordic.

Merdan replied that "it was not always like that in practice."

"You don't like Kordic and are implicating him in everything", Naumovski countered.

Merdan responded that he came to his conclusions about Kordic on the basis of fact. Merdan said that in 1992 Kordic took over the tripartite negotiations at Sarajevo airport from Blaskic and that Kordic made the decision on the take-over of the Yugoslav People's Army barracks and the HVO attack on Novi Travnik.

Merdan added that he could not go through "check-points" held by the "Knights", a special unit of the HVO, with a pass issued by Blaskic, but could go through with one issued by Kordic.

Merdan confirmed that he did not encounter the units of the Croatian Army (HV) in central Bosnia, but added that there is evidence from a detained soldier who claimed to be a member of the HV.

The prosecution is trying to prove the involvement of the HV in the conflicts between Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks, while the defence claims there were no units of the army of another state in the Lasva valley, but only individuals who were previously in the HV.

The influence of Croatia within the HVO is of importance to a ruling on whether the Croat-Bosniak conflict had an internal or international character.

In the other two testimonies heard last week, the prosecutor presented evidence on the shelling of Zenica and the attacks on Bosniaks in the villages around Busovaca.

Witness Ibrahim Nuhagic said that Kordic issued documents to Bosniaks from attacked villages that were supposed to guarantee their safety, but he simultaneously allowed soldiers to expel those same people.

Salih Hamzic, an employee at Radio Zenica, said in reference to the shelling of Zenica on April 19, 1993 - during which 15 people died - that the shells came from the direction of Vitez or Busovaca.

Kordic, whom several witnesses described as a de facto commander in Busovaca and Cerkez, and former commander of the HVO Vitez Brigade, were thereby implicated as superior officers culpable for the shelling.

Hamzic said that an unknown person called up Radio Zenica before the shelling asking for information about the position of the building. Hamzic said he refused to supply the information and the caller then said, "Sir we are going to shell you in ten minutes." Hamzic said the shells landed soon afterwards, most of them within 15 metres of the radio station.

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