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Gen. Blaskic Seeks Freedom While Waiting War Crime Trial
Would Set a Bad Precedent, Says Prosecutor

Gen. Tihomir Blaskic THE HAGUE, April 25 (Reuters) — A Croat general who gave himself up to the U.N. war crimes tribunal earlier this month asked on Thursday to be set free while he awaits trial. General Tihomir Blaskic, now a senior Croatian army officer, has been charged with atrocities committed against Muslim civilians in the Lasva Valley region of Central Bosnian in 1993 when he was a regional commander of the Bosnian Croat forces.

Forces under his command are alleged to have carried out several attacks against civilians including an alleged massacre at the village of Ahmici, near Vitez, where scores of people, including children, appeared to have been burned alive. Blaskic, who pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this month, told a panel of three judges that he would return to the tribunal whenever required, arguing he had already demonstrated his good will by coming to The Hague voluntarily.

"I would like to confirm that I have come here voluntarily and that I have made an undertaking to appear before this tribunal whenever so requested," he said. Blaskic, 35, addressed the court briefly at the end of the hour-long sitting. Dressed in a dark suit, he listened attentively to the proceedings, occasionally jotting down notes. Prosecutor Grant Niemann urged the tribunal to reject the request, saying Blaskic was accused of severe crimes and that his release would set an unwelcome precedent.

Presiding judge Claude Jorda of France said the tribunal would announce its decision at 1500 GMT today.

Blaskic's lawyer Zvonimir Hodak said his client was applying for provisional release because the Dutch government had been unable to fulfil an order granting him special privileges. In recognition of Blaskic's cooperation, tribunal president Antonio Cassese of Italy ruled on Tuesday that he could be held outside the tribunal's detention centre, but in the Netherlands, and could spend one night a month with his wife.

Blaskic is the highest-ranking of the three suspects still held by the tribunal. On Wednesday Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic was freed because he is dying of cancer, but the tribunal ruled that the indictment against him — alleging complicity in the shelling of civilians during the siege of Sarajevo — should stand.

Additional resources
April 24 · Comforts of Home for Accused Gen. Blaskic
April 3 · Blaskic Claims Complete Innocence
April 2 · Blaskic Surrenders to Hague Tribunal
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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