Bosnian Serb Fighter ‘Wanted Revenge for Sons’ Deaths’

A witness said that ex-fighter Marinko Bjelica, on trial for war crimes in Kalinovik, vowed to commit murder at a school where Bosniaks were detained, in order to avenge his two sons.

Prosecution witness Branko Sladoje said he was a guard at the Miladin Radojevic primary school in 1992, and he was told one day by a fellow guard that Bosniak prisoners had been murdered on the first floor.

In testimony given in 2010 that was read out in the Sarajevo courtroom on Wednesday by the prosecutor, Sladoje said that they both then heard a gunshot, so his colleague went upstairs to investigate.

“Marinko Bjelica and Zoran [Bjelica], Duke Tripkovic and a 12-year old child came downstairs. We asked them what happened. Marinko said that he lost two sons and that he was ready to kill everybody,” he said.

Sladoje told the court on Wednesday that he stuck to that statement.

The witness was not able to remember the date of the murders, except that they happened after “the fall of Rogoj” on July 30, 1992, adding that his shift then ended, so he did not see any bodies being carried out.

He said that Bosniaks from Kalinovik, as well as Serb refugees from Trnovo, were held in the school building, and that members of the Bosnian Serb Army and paramilitary groups used to pay visits.

Former Serb fighters Marinko Bjelica, Zoran Bjelica and Novica Tripkovic are charged with having come to the Miladin Radojevic primary school building armed with automatic rifles on August 1, 1992, or around that date, and seized four prisoners, Suad Hasanbegovic, Edin Bico, Seid Keso and Hasim Hatic.

The indictment alleges that they beat the prisoners up that night, and that Keso died as a result of the assault, while the following day they killed the others.

A second prosecution witness, Fadila Hatic, told the court on Wednesday that she was captured and detained in the school building in Kalinovik on August 1.

She testified that prisoners Sejdo Keso and Hasim Katica were taken out the next day and that a burst of gunfire was then heard in the next classroom.

She said that she had to clean up blood in that classroom on the following day.

“Some people who knew them told me that the Bjelicas had killed Hatic and Keso,” Hatic said, but added that she could not remember who told her.

The defence noted that, in her statement given to the State Investigation and Protection Agency in 2007, the witness did not mention the Bjelicas.

The trial is due to continue on May 21.

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