Bosnian Serb denies Sarajevo war crimes charges

Reuters , Thursday 24 Mar 2011

Veselin Vlahovic pleads not guilty in Bosnian court for crimes including torture, abuse, rape and murder

A former Bosnian Serb soldier pleaded not guilty at Bosnia's war crimes court on Thursday to charges of murder, rape and intimidation of non-Serbs in the capital Sarajevo during the 1992-95 war.

Veselin Vlahovic, 42, also known as Batko, was indicted on 56 counts including crimes against humanity.

"I plead not guilty," he told the court.

The indictment describes some of the most brutal war crimes committed against civilians in the Sarajevo neighbourhoods of Grbavica and Vraca in 1992 and 1993, including torture, abuse, rape and murders committed in the presence of the victims' family members.

It charges Vlahovic with persecution, killings, arrests and imprisonment of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, many of whom remain unaccounted for, and with looting their property.

Vlahovic was born in Montenegro and had three international arrest warrants pending when he was detained last year in Spain and delivered to the Bosnian court. He served a jail sentence after the Bosnian war for an armed robbery in Montenegro.

Bosnian Serbs, backed by the ex-Yugoslav army, launched an ethnic cleansing campaign in April 1992 and within a few months captured almost three-quarters of Bosnia and encircled Sarajevo, where more than 10,000 people died in a 3-1/2 year siege.

A spokesman for the state prosecutor said the prosecution would hear 105 witnesses and two expert witnesses and present around 300 exhibits as evidence.

In February the Bosnian police arrested another Bosnian Serb suspected of being an accomplice of Vlahovic.

The Bosnian war crimes court was set up in Sarajevo in 2005 to reduce the workload of the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

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