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Prosecution Accuses Lukic Witness of Perjury

It disputes her claim that accused saved her relatives on day he allegedly murdered 70 Bosniaks.
By Katharina Goetze
Prosecutors this week accused a defence witness in the trial of Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Milan Lukic of providing a false alibi in exchange for a bribe.

The protected witness – referred to only as MLD-10 in court – spoke highly of Lukic, and said he had helped her father and brother escape to safety during the war.

“I have only one father and I never forget a single good thing anyone does for me,” she said.

But the prosecution accused her of lying for cash.

“It is my position that you have only come forward…because you have been paid to provide this evidence that you have given in this case,” said Prosecutor Dermot Groome. He also accused the woman of passing 5,000 euro to her brother to pay him for providing false testimony.

Milan Lukic, along with his cousin Sredoje Lukic, is charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the customs of war during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

As former leader of the Bosnian Serb paramilitary group White Eagles, he is accused of persecuting Muslims and other non-Serbs in Visegrad, eastern Bosnia, between June 1992 and October 1994.

The indictment against him alleges that on June 27, he and others forced 70 Bosniak women, children and elderly people into a house in Bikavac, before setting it on fire, killing all but one of the victims.

MLD-10 testified that media reports portraying him as a war crimes suspect seemed to describe a completely different person to the one she had known.

In a court hearing on December 18 – just before the tribunal’s winter break – the witness testified that Lukic sheltered and saved her Bosniak father and brother on the day of the Bikavac fire.

During that hearing, she told the court that on that day, Milan Lukic helped her relatives escape from the village of Rujiste, in the Visegrad municipality. According to her, Lukic escorted them down to the River Drina to be picked in a boat up by relatives from the other side.

However, during cross-examination this week, the prosecution raised doubts about her story.

Groome questioned the level of danger that her relatives had been facing, pointing out that after her father and brother escaped, they returned to get three cows they had left behind.

“So is your evidence that Milan Lukic helped them escape with their lives from Rujiste, and yet they return, collect their cattle and walk with them down a half-hour walk to the banks of the Drina and then bring them across the Drina on a boat?” he asked.

The witness replied that this had been the case.

The prosecutor then asked her about her relationship with her apparently estranged brother.

He put it to the witness that she no longer spoke to her brother – who for security reasons, was referred to only as MLD-2 – because he was angry with her for not giving him all the money she allegedly received from Milan Lukic.

“I now put to you that you unexpectedly volunteered MLD-2’s evidence during your testimony as a way of giving Milan Lukic what he has already paid for – an alibi for 27 June. Is that not the truth?” he said.

However, the witness replied that she had received no money at all.

“My relationship with my brother has nothing to do with Milan Lukic,” she added.

She then went on to tell the court not to believe prosecution witness Hamdija Vilic, who testified in the Lukic trial in November last year.

Vilic gave evidence that he had been invited to a meeting with Lukic’s representatives at MLD-10’s house in Zavidovic where he was allegedly offered 100,000 euro to provide an alibi for Lukic.

Vilic, who lost his wife and children in the house fire, told the court that MLD-10 and her husband had called him and asked him to testify on Lukic’s behalf.

They had promised that, in return, he would receive “everything he would need in life”, said Vilic.

This week, witness MLD-10 said that Vilic had made allegations against her because she was “living with a Catholic man”. He was a Bosnian nationalist, she said, who disapproved of her lifestyle.

But the prosecution pressed MLD-10 on the subject.

“Hamdija Vilic testified that you and your husband told him that he would be provided with everything he would need in life. Do you admit that you said this to him?” asked the lawyer.

“I surely did not say this to him. I could not provide such guarantees and see no reason for me to tell him anything like that,” replied MLD-10.

Instead, she stated that Vilic himself had demanded 100,000 euro during a meeting with Lukic’s legal representatives for giving false testimony in court, although she did not explain how the meeting came about.

“[Vilic] told me over a cup of coffee that he would be seeking 100,000 euro. As soon as he asked for the money, [Lukic’s representatives] left,” MLD-10 told the court this week.

She stated that Lukic’s lawyers had no intention of paying one euro, let alone 100,000.

The prosecutor then asked the witness why she hadn’t volunteered her evidence sooner.

She replied that as soon as she was contacted and asked to testify, she had responded.

Earlier in the trial, MLD-10 described Lukic as a “quiet, nice person” who was “always forthcoming, helpful where he could be” and “extremely humane and gracious”.

However, the prosecution said that that this testimony was based on her knowledge of him from when he was growing up. They further argued that she had not been an eyewitness to the events in Visegrad in 1992.

The trial continues.

Katharina Goetze is an IWPR reporter in London.

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