Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Krajisnik Accused of Being Two-Faced
Prosecutors in the case against former Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik this week summoned a former parliamentary deputy and played telephone intercepts in an effort to show alleged double-dealing by the accused in the run-up to the war in Bosnia.
At the time, the Bosnian Serb leadership - including Krajisnik himself, who was then president of the Bosnian assembly - was ostensibly involved in political negotiations on the future of the country.
But prosecutors allege that behind the scenes they were busy preparing “all the important prerequisites for a successful struggle”.
Former Bosnian Serb representative Boro Bjelobrk this week told judges of what he says was Krajisnik’s duplicitous behaviour in the run-up to a key October parliamentary session, when deputies of the defendant’s Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, walked out over Muslim and Croat proposals that Bosnia should seek independence.
And telephone intercepts from late 1991 and early 1992, featuring the voices of Slobodan Milosevic and top Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, provided further evidence to suggest Krajisnik was far from being a peacemaker.
Krajisnik appeared respectful of Bjelobrk, a 55-year old sharp-featured Bosnian Serb who was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina, SDP, in October 1991. Addressing the court, Krajisnik said he is a man who “always speaks the truth”.
He described him as “a very important witness who could throw some light on what happened in parliament in October 1991”.
In the session in which the deputies walked out, Bjelobrk told the court that Krajisnik made an effort to appear concerned that voting should go ahead as usual. But Bjelobrk said the defendant was really concerned with promoting the interests of his own SDS party, and did nothing to stop representatives from storming out before voting could take place.
Telephone intercepts presented by the prosecution also revealed how Krajisnik was viewed by other Serb leaders.
In one recorded conversation between Karadzic and Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic praises Krajisnik’s conduct in parliament, describing him as “a hero of the day”.
“It was on TV, he literally held the parliament in his hands,” the voice identified in court as Karadzic’s said.
“Yes, yes, f*** the country that doesn’t have Bosnia,” Milosevic responded, an old Balkans witticism meaning that Yugoslavia would never be complete without Bosnia.
“Yes, yes, the country can’t do without Bosnia, no way,” Karadzic laughed. “We are not going to let that happen.”
The accused, listening to the conversation in court, couldn’t quite suppress a smile.
Another recording featured Krajisnik speaking to Karadzic. In an apparently heated exchange, the two discussed an interview given by Izetbegovic, where he talked about sovereignty as Bosnia’s only option.
“[Izetbegovic] is crazy, man, he’s really pushing our buttons... Now he’s talking openly about independence, he wants someone to come and destroy his Sarajevo!” says Karadzic. “Well f*** him! We will unleash our tigers and let them do their job.”
“...We have to unleash our men, there is no doubt about that,” agrees Krajisnik.
“I’m telling you,” says Karadzic, “you cannot control them any more.”
Defence lawyer Nicholas Stewart objected several times to the lengthy transcripts, saying they sounded like a “stream of consciousness”. But the prosecution argued that it is important for judges to hear the tone of the conversations and glean from them additional information related to Krajisnik’s indictment.
At the end of the week’s hearings, Presiding Judge Alphons Orie told Krajisnik that he will be allowed to question Bjelobrk himself, if he so wishes, because of the “wide scope of issues” covered by the witness.
Judges are still to decide whether defence lawyers should be allowed to continue with their cross-examination of Bjelobrk, given that they have already run over the allotted time.
The trial resumes on November 22.
Merdijana Sadovic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
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