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Krajisnik and Plavsic Case

Old rivals studiously ignore each other in the dock

They are joint defendants facing the same charges at The Hague, but former Bosnian Serb political leaders Momcilo Krajisnik and BiljanaPlavsic still looked like bitter rivals last week as they sat silently in the same courtroom.

It was the first time the two had sat together in the same court since Plavsic surrendered to the tribunal in January.

Never exchanging a word nor meeting eyes, Krajisnik and Plavsic studiously ignored each other during a 40-minute long status conference, the first since the prosecutor decided to join their cases into a single indictment for genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Plavsic and Krajisnik fought for post-war control of the Republika Srpska entity in 1997, employing rival police forces and radio stations. Although both adamant nationalists, Plavsic argued for cooperating with Western powers while Krajisnik allied himself with the former Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Plavsic is a long-time enemy of Milosevic, who she openly defied for years. With the former Yugoslav president now behind bars in a Belgrade prison and speculation mounting about his eventual transfer to The Hague, Plavsic's testimony in her own trial - should she decide to testify on her own behalf - will be closely scrutinised.

Plavsic and Krajisnik will have plenty of time to contemplate their plight. Judge Richard May said that their trial would begin in the latter half of November.

The judge refused a request from the prosecution to extend the deadline for submission of a pre-trial brief due to personnel changes within the prosecution team. (Brenda Holis has returned to the United States and another American prosecutor, Mark Harmon, who is currently prosecuting General Krstic, is scheduled to take over the case). Judge May said postponement was out of the question.

The defence counsels, including a new attorney for Biljana Plavsic - an American lawyer of Serb origin named Robert Pavic - had no objections to deadlines but complained about the large number of documents that they received from the prosecution in the process of disclosure.

Due to the weight of charges and the large volume of documentary evidence related to wartime events in 41 municipalities throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, the tribunal's registry has already approved significant compensation for the defence teams representing Plavsic and Krajisnik.

The usual fees for defence lawyer, legal assistant and two investigators amount to $25,000 a month on average, for each of the accused. This time, the registry has approved supplementary financial support "packages" for the defence teams of Krajisnik and Plavsic amounting to $250,000 each for the pre-trial period, officials told IWPR.

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