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Regional Report: Mountain Brigade Trial Reopens

New charges in country's biggest trial of Bosnians accused of crimes against Serbs.
By Amra Kebo

Another member of a notorious Bosnian army unit is to go on trial next month, in the latest instalment of the most sensational case of atrocities by government forces against Serb civilians in Sarajevo.


The trial of Samir Bejtic, the 17th defendant in the case, has been delayed because he was in Germany serving a jail sentence for kidnapping.


Sarajevo's cantonal court has indicted Bejtic of crimes against civilians and of being an accessory to murders committed at Kazani ravine, at the foot of Mount Trebevic.


A total of 15 men have already been convicted for a gruesome series of killings of captured Serb civilians, who were shot and stabbed and their bodies hurled into the ravine.


Sarajevo is better known to the outside world for Serb atrocities against the mostly-Muslim population.


For four years Bosnian Serb forces besieged the city, hammering at it with sniper and artillery fire, killing more than 11,000 civilians, including 1,000 children.


Yet atrocities - albeit on a much smaller scale - were also committed by members of the mostly-Muslim Bosnian government forces against Serbs who remained in the city.


Of these, Kazani has become the most notorious: the area was close to the front line, and in 1992 and 1993, scores of Serbs were captured, sometimes beaten and tortured, and then executed and dumped in the ravine.


The murders were carried out by members of the Bosnian army's 10th Mountain Brigade, which had a sinister reputation in Sarajevo: regular soldiers accused its men of banditry and many Sarajevans were seized by the unit and forced to dig trenches in exposed parts of the front line.


The indictment against Bejtic says that as a member of mountain brigade, he took part in murder of eight Serb civilians, and was personally responsible for three of the killings.


So far, the higher court and the cantonal court in Sarajevo have found 15 members of the brigade guilty of crimes against Serb civilians.


The inquiries first began while the Bosnian war was still raging, in 1994, and the first trials started in September 1996.


The 15 were sentenced to prison terms of between six to ten years. The sixteenth defendant, Seja Kadic, is being tried in absentia.


Prosecutor of the cantonal court in Sarajevo said 49 years and five months of prison sentences have been given so far for the crimes in Kazani.


Bejtic's name was included on the very first indictment in 1994. In July last year, he was extradited to Bosnia, and has been detained in Sarajevo prison ever since.


The most famous mountain brigade commander was the gangster-soldier Caco - real name Musan Topalovic - one of the first to take up arms to defend the city.


But he was later accused of indulging in racketeering and taking people by force to dig trenches.


As the war progressed, the government and the regular army grew in strength and began to challenge Caco, who was increasingly seen as an embarrassment.


He was killed under mysterious circumstances, in October 1993.


Bejtic's trial is due to start in one month. It is expected to draw a lot of attention because he is accused of being a leading figure in the mountain brigade.


The defendant is accused of a series of crimes against Serbs.


On Christmas Day 1992, it's alleged that he was ordered to arrest Zoran Vucurevic, taking him to the ravine, shooting him, then drenching his body with paint thinner and setting it on fire.


In July 1993, he is said to have been ordered to kidnap Bozidar Djlivic. Bejtic subsequently threw him out of his car - and he is then believed to have shot dead by the brigade commander.


In September 1993, Bejtic is alleged to have taken part in beating of Ergin Nikolic and Dusko Jovanovic in the brigade headquarters.


Then it is claimed that he took them to Kazani, where he stabbed both to death, throwing their bodies into the ravine.


In October of 1993, Bejtic, together with other brigade members, is charged with taking Predrag Djalipur and Radislav Radislavljevic from their apartments, beating and then killing them, before disposing of their bodies in the ravine.


Lastly, he is accused of taking part in murder of married couple Radoslav and Marina Komljenovic. It's claimed he kidnapped them and took them to Kazani, where they were executed by other brigade members.


Amra Kebo is a commentator at the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje.