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Blaskic: 'Completely Innocent'
General Confined to Apartment In The Netherlands as Tribunal Blasts Serbs for Non-Cooperation in War Wrimes Prosecution

(THE HAGUE, Netherlands—AP) A Bosnian Croat general who turned himself in pleaded innocent to war crimes charges today and was ordered confined to a heavily guarded apartment. Gen. Tihomir Blaskic was charged with crimes against humanity for his alleged participation in the 1993 massacre of Muslims in Ahmici in central Bosnia. Blaskic, Chief of Staff of the Bosnian Croat Army, was promoted to staff member of the Croatian amry's main inspectorate by Croatian president Franjo Tudjman's office the day after his indictment. He surrendered to the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Monday night, apparently after being promised that he would not be held in the tribunal prison.

Blaskic announced then that he was giving himself up in order to disprove the allegations against him. After hearing his 13-page indictment read today, the 35-year-old general, dressed in a dark blue jacket, white shirt and tie, denied all charges. "Your honor, with respect to all the charges of the indictment I plead not guilty. I consider myself completely innocent," Blaskic said in Serbo-Croatian.

Will Not Be Housed in Tribunal Prison
Before Blaskic appeared in court, tribunal president Antonio Cassese ruled that he did not have to stay in solitary confinement at the courtís 24-cell holding block. Playing down the decision to free him from the cells, the tribunal said Blaskicís detention conditions "would only be slightly modified," and stressed it was not a form of house arrest.

Blaskic will be confined to a guarded apartment provided by the Dutch government "where he shall serve his detention until the completion of proceedings under the most strict conditions," according to tribunal documents released today. Blaskic will be allowed no telephone calls, his mail will be addressed to the Hague detention unit and he will not be allowed out of the house at all. Visits and meetings with his lawyers will only be allowed at the tribunal detention block and Blaskic will have to foot the bill for his accommodation and guards. His lawyer says that will run to about $1 million per year. Defense attorney Zvonimir Hodak said last week he would try to raise the money from within the Bosnian Croat community. Tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier said only that Blaskic will be held in a residence somewhere in Holland.

Tribunal Blasts Serbs for Non-Cooperation
At a separate hearing today, judges decided to report Serbian authorities to the U.N. Security Council for not cooperating with the tribunal in the case of three Yugoslav Army officers accused in the massacre of 261 men, most of them Croats, near the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991. Eleven witnesses at a four-day hearing told the tribunal that the three officers—Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic and Veselin Sljivancanin—were behind the killings of the victims taken from Vukovar hospital.

The court also issued international arrest warrants for the men, believed to be living in Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital. The warrants will be sent to all U.N. member states and the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia. Reporting Serbia to the Security Council could mean further sanctions imposed on the government of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Blaskic, former chief of staff of the Bosnian Croat army, was indicted in November for allegedly ordering troops to kill hundreds of Muslims in the Lasva Valley. Indicted along with Blaskic were Dario Kordic, former chairman of the ruling Croatian party in Bosnia, and five other Bosnian Croats. Blaskicís surrender to the tribunal was apparently prompted by international—particularly American—pressure on Croatia to hand him over. Atrocities attributed to his troops include the notorious massacres at Ahmici and Vitez where Muslims were killed by Bosnian Croat troops allegedly under Blaskic and Kordicís command.

Blaskic is the third indicted suspect in tribunal custody. The other two suspects, both Serbs, are being held in the tribunalís cell block, although one, Gen. Djordje Djukic, has applied for release on medical grounds. The 62-year-old Djukic has pancreatic cancer and sciatica. Prosecutors have indicted a total of 57 suspects, including Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic. But Serb and Croat authorities have yet to extradite a single indicted suspect. All but 11 of the indicted suspects are Serbs.

Additional resources
Blaskic Surrenders to Hague Tribunal Berserkistan, April 2
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Account of the Killings at Ahmici
Interview with Witness to Killings at Vitez
Charges Relating to Alleged Atrocities in the Lasva Valley From BosNet/BosNews


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