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Visegrad Verdict Due

Lukic cousins, who have pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of crimes against humanity, to hear their fate in court later this month.
By Simon Jennings
Judges at the Hague tribunal are set to deliver their verdict next week in the case of two Bosnian Serb cousins charged with war crimes in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad between 1992-94.

Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic, who went on trial on July 9, 2008 charged with directly committing crimes of murder, extermination and torture against members of the Bosniak Muslim population will hear their fate in court on July 20.

Hague prosecutors allege that Milan Lukic was the leader of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary group known as the White Eagles, which operated alongside police and military during the 1992-1995 war.

The cousins both pleaded not guilty to a total of 21 counts of crimes against humanity in Visegrad such as burning to death up to 140 Bosniak civilians – including women, children and the elderly – in two separate house fires during June 1992.

The men are accused of shutting 70 Bosniaks inside a house on Visegrad’s Pionirska Street before setting it ablaze and then carrying out a similar attack in the Bikavac neighbourhood, just outside the then Muslim-dominated town.

Milan Lukic was also tried for shooting five Bosniak men in cold blood on the banks of the Drina river on June 7, 1992.

Prosecutors, who presented evidence from 45 witnesses during the trial, called for both men to be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Lawyers representing both defendants asked for their acquittal. American lawyer Jason Alarid, representing Milan Lukic, argued that there were “serious inconsistencies” in the evidence given by prosecution witnesses and urged that no conclusion “beyond a reasonable doubt” could be established about his client’s involvement in any of the crimes.

Milan Lukic’s defence presented evidence from 28 witnesses while Sredoje Lukic’s case consisted of only three witnesses who testified that he was not in Visegrad at the time that the crimes are alleged to have been committed.

Both defendants were taken into custody in 2005 after Milan Lukic was arrested in Argentina in August that year after evading justice for seven years. Sredoje Lukic surrendered to Bosnian Serb authorities soon after his cousin’s arrest.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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