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Kupreskic & Others Trial: Brothers' Defence

By Chief Correspondent Mirko Klarin & assistant reporter Vjera Bogati

The Defence's presentation of evidence on behalf of brothers, Zoran and Mirjan Kupreskic started last week. Apart from the general Count 1 of the Indictment - which charges all six Bosnian Croats for persecution of Bosnian Muslim civilians on political, racial or religious grounds - the Kupreskic brothers are also charged with another 10 Counts.

All 10 relate to a single crime: the extermination Sakib Ahmic's family at dawn of 16 April 1993 in the village of Ahmici in Central Bosnia. According to the indictment, the brothers Zoran and Mirjan Kupreskic, burst into the house of their neighbour Sakib Ahmic and killed his son Naser, his daughter-in-law Zehrudina, as well as his two grandchildren, three-year old Elvis and three-month old Sejdo. They subsequently set fire to the house. Sakib Ahmic, however, survived with heavy burns over his head, face and hands.

In September last year he appeared before the Tribunal as the Prosecutor's "crown witness" against the two (see Tribunal Update No. 92 and No. 93). Then, the Defence team highlighted some supposed inconsistencies in Ahmic's testimony and previous statements about the crime.

During this first week of the presentation of their evidence, the brothers' Croatian Defence counsels Ranko Radovic and Jadranka Slokovic-Glumac, called several witnesses - Croats from Ahmici - who testified seeing the defendants some distance from the Ahmic house at dawn of the 16th. These witnesses maintain that immediately after the shooting began, the Kupreskic brothers took their families to a shelter in the neighbouring hamlet of Pirici, before returning to join other Croat men holding front-line positions in a valley near the village, where they stayed for the following three days.

Whereas Sakib Ahmic stated that the brothers wore uniforms and camouflage gear that morning, the witnesses for the Defence claim they saw them in civilian clothes.

One week after General Tihomir Blaskic appeared as witness in his own trial and admitted that Ahmici was attacked by Military Police of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO), Defence witnesses in the trial of "Kupreskic & Others" still insist that they do not know who the attackers were.

Except for a local man they recognised called Santic who was killed later that day, all witnesses reported seeing mostly unknown camouflaged soldiers -who sported Military Police insignia. Apart from Santic, the Defence witnesses said, none of the local Croats had taken part in the attack nor had any influence over events in the village that day.

What is undisputable is that a massacre occurred in Ahmici on April 16 and that more than 100 Muslim villagers were killed, their houses torn down and torched. "Without a doubt a crime has been committed in Ahmici, but the responsibility for it can not be borne by all Croat inhabitants of the village," one witness told the judges. "We can not be held responsible...because we were born there."

The Kupreskic & Others Trial continues.

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