Bosnian Fighter Demands Bosanski Brod Killings Acquittal

Former Croatian Defence Forces fighter Zemir Kovacevic is not guilty of killings, looting and the illegal detention of Serb civilians in the village of Sijekovac in 1992, his defence said.

“Based on the evidence and witness testimonies, it can be concluded that the prosecution failed to prove the allegations in the indictment against our defendant,” defence lawyer Bajro Avdic told the court in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

Zemir Kovacevic, a former fighter with the First Bosanski Brod Brigade of the HVO, later known as the 101st Bosanski Brod Brigade of the HVO, is charged with taking part in an armed attack on Sijekovac in the Bosanski Brod municipality in 1992, where, together with others, he took 15 people and four children from their houses, most of whom were then killed.

But his lawyer argued that the eyewitnesses’ statements were contradictory and confirmed his client’s alibi.

“Zemir Kovacevic was not in Traktorska Street [in Sijekovac, where the victims were killed] at the critical time,” said Avdic.

He said that witness Zdravko Trifunovic, a relative of some of those who were killed, was “the key factor that proves that Kovacevic was not involved in the events he is charged with” because he saw the defendant outside his house, which was not on Traktorska Street, at the time of the killings. Kovacevic said he was there to help the Trifunovic family.

Kovacevic’s defence argued that that the village was not attacked, but there was an exchange of gunfire after a Serb started shooting.

Witnesses also gave conflicting testimony about who was hiding from the gunfire in the basement of the house in Traktorska Street, said Avdic.

He also said that it was not clear how a protected witness codenamed ‘M’ could have seen Kovacevic allegedly shooting dead a man who was five to six metres away from him, because it was dark at the time.

According to the witnesses’ testimonies, the killings in the yard happened while other villagers were in the basement, so many of them could not have seen what happened, Avdic continued.

He pointed out that witnesses confirmed that several men called Zemir were in Sijekovac at the time, and that the names Zemir and Semir were very similar, so there could have been confusion about the defendant’s identity.

Many witnesses said that Kovacevic helped them when they were taken to the Sijekovac Cultural Centre after the violence, and that no one harmed them there, Avdic noted.

“Our client did not participate in taking [prisoners] to do hard labour, as he is charged with, because from April until September [1992] he was in treatment after surgery,” he said.

Kovacevic told the court that he was innocent and that he only helped the Trifunovic family and witness ‘M’, and that if the court was to convict him, it would send the message that “you should not help people in trouble”.

The verdict will be handed down on May 21.

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